Advances in Smart Cutaneous Wearable Devices

The trend of self-tracking has caused a paradigm shift in the health care industry. Frost & Sullivan believes research will result in attractive new devices for both the consumer and medical communities. Read more about the latest innovations.

Smart cutaneous wearables—or electronic skins—are thin, flexible, patch-like medical devices for healthcare monitoring, diagnosis and drug delivery. They can help individuals track their health, patients with chronic diseases manage their conditions, and the elderly manage their well-being. All this can be achieved remotely, without the need for a visit to a clinic or hospital.

The United States has witnessed intensive patenting activity with respect to the use of skin patches for detection of biomarkers: Frost & Sullivan noticed that the creation of intellectual property has surged since 2014. Microelectromechanical components have been used in wearable physiological monitoring devices since the manpo-kei pedometer was introduced in the mid-1960s. Although consumer distrust of wearables’ accuracy and function grew as the market flooded with low-cost devices, Frost & Sullivan research indicates that advancements in wearable technology, such as the use of flexible electronics for accurate, real-time monitoring of physiological parameters, is helping the industry to regain public trust. Smart skin patch health monitoring devices by companies such as Gentag, Kenzen and MC10 may help bridge the gap between data collection and actionable alerts.

Improved Healthcare Management through Skin Patches

The connected health and home healthcare trend has made medical- and consumer-grade diagnostics essential. Self-monitoring devices, like Gentag’s near-field communication (NFC) skin patch, help patients avoid healthcare complications, delays in diagnosis, and costly readmissions.

The Washington, D.C., company’s lightweight, flexible and disposable skin patch enables diagnostics, fitness and diabetes monitoring, and medication delivery. Using proprietary application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and advanced nanomaterials such as graphene, it can detect tiny amounts of toxins, proteins, DNA or chemicals cutaneously. Sensor modules equipped with reverse e-nose technology can be trained to identify person-specific environmental factors that can cause asthma or an allergic reaction. 

NFC patches can be individually customized to create discharge and home monitoring kits for hospitals, nursing homes and physicians to efficiently monitor health and reduce readmissions—without the need for a battery. Customized products include disposable fever patches that provide temperature readings automatically without disturbing the patient. They also can be used for: 

  • Fitness monitoring of heart rate, temperature, hydration, sweat, blood sugar, lactic acid and electrolytes, and evaluation of activity levels and movement. 
  • Diabetes monitoring thanks to advances in microfabrication that allow sensors to measure glucose levels. 
  • Drug delivery, with patented NFC lab-on-a-chip technology that provides precise, timed dosing of a range of medications. 
  • Disposable immunoassays to detect proteins associated with specific allergens, infectious diseases, and even cancerous cells.

Smart Patch for Personal Health Monitoring

San Francisco-based Kenzen’s smart patch is a wearable that monitors personal health to improve performance and recovery, and look out for warning signs of a developing injury or other medical problem. 

The smart patch easily syncs with an iOS, Android or Windows phone using Bluetooth Low Energy, which helps extend patch battery life to weeks. Sturdy and resistant sensors can endure extreme temperature, altitude, and pressure—should wearers find themselves in any of these environments, at least their Kenzen patch could let them know that they should have never left their safe space. The miniaturized sensor arrays on the patch can detect many biomarkers, such as sodium and potassium, from just a single drop of sweat. 

The health and fitness data sync with Kenzen devices and correlate to vital signs, physical activity, motion and performance. Customized predictive health analytics in the patch can foresee any danger to the body, such as the risk of heart or organ malfunctioning and drops in vital nutrients.  

Wearable Sensing Device for Remote Monitoring

MC10 (Cambridge, Mass.) has developed the BioStampRC system, which is a flexible, wearable medical device that allows for remote monitoring of physical and physiological activities. The data is captured and analyzed to provide insights that can improve the wearer’s health and well-being. 

The device is made from low-durometer silicone, which helps it conform to body contours: it can be placed on any body location for targeted data capture. ECG recordings are captured in real time for better cardiac monitoring. Inertia sensors capture kinematic data in six degrees of freedom, and a three-axis accelerometer and gyroscope make it ideal for capturing electrophysiological data. Big Data analytics and machine learning translate the data into actionable insights that are then stored on a cloud platform for easy access anywhere and at any time. MC10 also has an investigator portal where users can share data through encrypted logins.

The Road Ahead

The trend of self-tracking has caused a paradigm shift in the health care industry. A greater focus on personal health and the ever-increasing cost of medical care worldwide is putting an emphasis on new and advanced technologies for disease prevention and early diagnosis and treatment.

Over the past decade, the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a technology leader, with both China and Australia increasing their patent filing activities. Frost & Sullivan believes research in the areas of disposable medical double-joint electrode patches, integrated wireless patches for physiological monitoring, and methods for non-invasive monitoring of blood plasma levels will result in attractive new devices for both the consumer and medical communities. 

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