Flexible Electronics Create Medical Device Technology Breakthrough

    03/07/18

    Advanced Engineering Collaboration with Clinical Medicine Transforms Rehabilitation

    We’re all navigating in an attention economy where speed is the currency and information gathering and retention are the Holy Grail. It drives how we do business and impacts our personal lives. And it’s never more personal than when gathering health data. I recently read about this remarkable advancement in medical device technology, inspired by nature’s protective mechanism—skin—to, in a sense, get under ours. 

    IoT Medical Device Technology.jpgIt’s with every good intention that these stick-on flexible electronics do their jobs. These stick-on flexible electronics look much like a BAND-AID®. Because the medical device technology for flexibles has improved significantly in the last few years, medical devices like these continue to perform even after repeated stretching and flexing. 

    Much of this advancement is credited to John Rogers, the scientist at Northwestern University responsible for many achievements in the field of flexible electronics. According to an article on Medgadget’s website, he developed new sensors that stick directly to the skin on the throat and measure vibrations produced by the vocal chords. The sensors can also assess how patients swallow and help identify unusual speech patterns that may not be readily apparent. 

    In addition, these sensors work with other sensors that Rogers and his team developed—they track the heart’s rhythm, muscle movement, and help with sleep analysis.

    Groudbreaking Inspriation 

    What always inspires me about these stories is when people find groundbreaking ways to apply these technologies beyond their original intent. As it turns out, here is that great “next step”: “All these sensors have been brought together at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC)), to be able to track the progress of patients following a stroke, particularly those suffering from aphasia, a speech disorder. Currently, standing microphones and special software is used to assess speech, but a traditional microphone doesn’t capture a lot of the nuance that a flexible stick-on one can. The new throat sensors combined with chest and leg-worn censors create a detailed picture of the relevant health parameters of stroke patients.” 

    Historically, stroke patients do well while recuperating in the hospital, but these gains fall off once they go home. This advancement encourages more natural rehabilitation practices and allows doctor to track real-world performance. What’s game-changing to stroke survivors is that they can be monitored without wires associated with traditional sensors. They can go about their day unencumbered and know that their movement—and progress—is being tracked and charted in an undisruptive manner. This allows doctors to closely gauge how they are handling different types of therapy—from speech and walking to arm movement, balance, heart function, sleep quality, swallowing, and even sweat function. This collaboration of advanced engineering, rehabilitation science, and clinical medicine is helping transform medical outcomes for patients. 

    Advanced Engineering and Real-Life Solutions

    It’s humbling to know that advanced engineering can have such profound effects on people’s lives. We are always excited to make new discoveries and improvements at Enginasion. Our Bluetooth communications work has increased this past year, but the offerings have shrunk! Let me explain: the module we’re using is the smallest, lowest power module available with FCC approval. In fact, it has a processor in it, so most of the control I/O can be done without adding another CPU.  

    Wearable Sensor_Medical Devices.png

    Other projects involve creating flex circuits for foldable systems. We have built systems with temperature, humidity, shock, pressure, radios, and 3D acceleration sensors. The image above shows a wearable sensor system set into protective armor. We can customize a system for you—and welcome the opportunity to explore it with you.  

    The RFID sensor below allows you to track and store activity in proximity to the RFID tag. These tiny modules transmit your vehicle’s transponder serial number to the toll machine. Now, RFID sensors can store 2048 bytes of data, capturing much more data than just a serial number. Envision how this technology can help you manage your data. 

    Tiny RFID Sensor_Penny.png

    IoT and You

    The type of IoT advancement such as the one above that allows patients and doctors to get such valuable immediate feedback is what motivates us at Enginasion to do the work we do. Some of our engineering projects involve solving issues within a specific “my world” microcosm, and others reach further into a larger, real-world ecosystem. Stories like the stick-on flexible electronics remind us that a problem—and solution—that is specific to your needs and goals is big, regardless of where your sights are set. 

    And no vision is too broad or small—literally—to benefit from IoT developments. These days, smaller can mean more and capacity can be vast. If you’ve been searching for a new system, solution, or vision, there are a variety of projects available to explore; we’ve partnered on many with different companies and industries. 

    In the end, it’s really our world, and there is much we can work on together to keep it real. One such project involved working with Millennium Dental Technologies, the first company to receive FDA approval for a periodontal laser used in place of a scalpel to remove diseased gum tissue. Millennium Dental needed to upgrade its technology to improve performance and ease usability. We looked beyond the status quo and created new, improved hardware and software to enhance this innovative periodontal laser technique. This case study offers more information—download it now to find out. 

    Learn how we engineered design improvements without compromising performance, while minimizing upgrade costs and downtime.

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    Topics: IoT Engineering, Medical Device Technology

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    Written by David Bonneau

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