Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TG Tech Briefs: Stories Worth Sharing for Week Ending December 20, 2014

There have been lots of stories over the past few weeks about wearables and sensor technology.

A New Chip Could Add Motion Sensing to Clothing A company called mCube has made a new kind of accelerometer that is small and cheap enough to lead to smart electronics in clothing and sports equipment.

First Look at Simband, Samsung's Health-Tracking Wearable of the Future & The Apple Watch May Solve the Usual Smart-Watch Annoyances Samsung’s new health tracker is equipped with six sensors, and its modular design means developers can add their own proprietary sensors as well. The six sensors it comes with can keep tabs on your daily steps, heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, and how much sweat your sweat glands are producing. The blood pressure sensor is a photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensor. The Apple Watch also has a PPG sensor.

Sweat Sensors Will Change How Wearables Track Your Health Researchers have discovered that perspiration may carry far more information and may be easier to stimulate, gather, and analyze than previously thought. This electronic sweat-patch uses paper microfluidics to wick sweat from the skin through a membrane that selects for a specific ion, such as sodium. Onboard circuitry calculates the ion concentration and sends the data to a smartphone. The electronics within the patch are externally powered, as in an RFID chip.

More Than Skin Deep & Artificial Skin That Senses, and Stretches, Like the Real Thing Both of these stories are about a thin, stretchable material that in which sensors and electronics can be incorporated. Making electronic devices that are skin-like will ultimately allow us to intimately integrate very advanced semiconductor technology and sensors with the body.

Radio-Controlled Mouse Hints at New Diabetes Treatment In this fascinating research at my alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, mice were made to respond to a radio signals by releasing insulin. One day this might allow people with type 1 diabetes to use an app on their phone to alleviate their disease at a cellular level.

Finally, being in the electronic monitoring industry for criminal justice, as well as from Colorado, I get asked lots of questions of about marijuana detection. There are few press releases popping up about marijuana breathalyzers, such as this one from Washington State University and this one from Lifeloc. These stories are high on promises but low on details. What’s not stated is that concentrations of delta-9 THC in breath are so low that there is no reliable sensing technology outside of traditional, lab-based chromatography. My opinion is that this is a really a law enforcement issue; not an electronic monitoring issue. THC does not readily disappear from the body, so there are many reliable ways to determine if somebody has recently used marijuana. But there is no reliable chemical test to determine if a person is under the influence of pot right now, and I don't see one coming for some time.

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