Scientists at Imperial College London have developed wireless sensor
that can be implanted in the body. Their current application
is blood glucose monitoring, but they're also targeting respiratory and
cardiac diseases. The sensor communicates with a mobile phone, which
serves as a gateway connecting the patient to their physician. The
system also has the capability to provide self monitoring for the
patient and feed back from the physician. Developers hope to add the
ability to remotely control therapeutic devices.
The sensor, which
includes a Pentium microprocessor just 2mm square, will initially be
implanted in diabetics. Trials will begin by Christmas at St
Marys hospital, London. The implant will be programmed to send an
emergency text message via a mobile phone, alerting medical staff to
changes in blood-sugar levels.
director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial, is
hoping eventually to link the sensor to an insulin pump that can be
operated remotely by a doctor.
Note that the sensor/phone gateway uses SMS
to communicate the data. While wireless IP data is sexier, SMS is the
killer transport for nascent remote monitoring applications. In recent
years carriers have upgraded their SMS services, making them more
reliable and "manageable". Carrier's SMS messages frequently run
separate from normal voice and data so messages can be transmitted even
when normal circuits are busy. (AT&T Wireless' network worked that
way, I'm not sure how Cingular's network is configured for SMS.)
The advantage for vendors is that GSM/GPRS and SMS are nearly world
wide standards; the same product can be sold into North America and
Having worked on a wireless sensor project, I
would guess they are still some way off from a continuous monitoring
capability. I also wonder about the size of the sensor/radio package.
This trial is going to be done with external sensors. I would also speculate that any implantable
device will be closer in size to a pacemaker than a grain of rice.
Oracle is funding the project.
[Hat tip: Wireless Healthcare]