The hot new app: old people


By 2030, more than 1 billion people in the world will be 65 years of age or older, according to Luc Van den Hove, the CEO of imec, the research consortium based in Belgium. In a presentation in the fall of 2011, Van den Hove showed a chart where the aging population grows rapidly after 2010, reaching 1.5 billion by 2050, far outpacing the growth of the number of children younger than 5, which is expected to remain relatively flat. "This is going to create a tremendous problem keeping our healthcare system sustainable," Van den Hove said.

The solution to this challenge: more sophisticated electronics that can provide improved diagnostics and more precise monitoring. "This will allow a lot of applications such as remote monitoring of patients, basically bringing the doctors to our homes," Van den Hove said. One way this could be implemented is with body-area networks consisting of wireless sensor nodes, which imec describes as the driver of the second "telehealth" wave. One is example of a device that will be employed by such as network is the ultra-low power, bluetooth-enabled, ECG patch, which is designed to enable the long term monitoring of cardiac patients. This technology has been in development at imec for several years. "It measures ECG signals in three places and also has a 3D accelerometer. It transmits the data to a smart phone from which the data can be transferred to a doctor's practice," Van den Hove said.

Also last fall, at the MEMS Executive Congress in Monterey, CA, I heard more about the Proteus BioMed technology. Certain to be of high interest to the aging population ??? or anyone taking medications ??? the technology employs "ingestible event markers" which are tiny, digestible sensors made from food ingredients, and are activated by stomach fluids after swallowing. Once activated, the makers create an ultra-low-power, private, digital signal detected by a microelectronic recorder configured as either a small bandage style skin-patch or a tiny device inserted under the skin. Increased monitoring of our aging population's health is sure to be the hot new app in the years to come. Talk about being connected!

Solid State Technology, Volume 55, Issue 1, January 2012

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