There are many extraordinary developments in the MedTech field. Some of them have a common feature: communication between body and technology is going wireless.
Engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology made the first steps toward a chip-free, wireless “electronic skin” (e-skin). This e-skin can transmit signals related to vital biomarkers, such as pulse, chemicals in sweat and UV exposure. Nowadays, most wireless sensors communicate via embedded Bluetooth chips that are powered by batteries. The MIT team showed that a pure film of gallium nitride can function as both a sensor and a wireless communicator of surface acoustic waves (i.e., vibrations across the film). Adhered to the skin, the e-skin’s inherent, resonant vibration is simultaneously converted into an electrical signal, which can be registered by a wireless receiver. Any change to the skin’s conditions, such as from an accelerated heart rate, affects the sensor’s mechanical vibrations.
Envision, a start-up at TU Delft, is developing smart glasses that will allow blind people to see without using their eyes. Equipped with a built-in camera, the smart glasses take images that are processed in a mini-computer and then transmitted wirelessly to a brain chip. The chip, consisting of multiple electrodes, stimulates the visual cortex with electric currents. Such direct stimulation can bypass damaged nerves between the eyes and the brain, which is a common reason for losing eyesight.
First patients have received a wireless, dual chamber pacemaker. Traditional pacemakers are connected to wires that are inserted into the heart through the subclavian vein. The wires deliver electrical pulses to stabilize the patient’s heartbeat. The device sits beneath the skin, inserted via an incision. The wireless pacemaker is about 90% smaller; there will be no bump protruding from the skin and no wires in the heart. Dr. Kent Nilsson, the operating cardiologist at Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital, describes this breakthrough innovation as one of the most transformative technologies in cardiology. FDA approved is expected in 2023.