Health sensors the size of a postage stamp


A few weeks ago, I published a blog post highlighting a new development in mobile health technology by electrical engineers at Oregon State University (OSU). I recently had the opportunity to speak with them regarding their microchip and learn more about how close we are to having cheap ECG and EEG postage-sized transmitters.

I spoke with Dr. Lingli Xia and Jiao Cheng, two of the engineers at the OSU lab working on health monitoring sensor tags. It was great to learn more about the product and learn more about how close we are to having cheap wearable technology. 

As I mentioned in the previous article, once the technology is ready, Lingli and Jiao believe they can reduce the cost of wireless EEG and ECG monitoring to less than a dollar. Think of the range of possibilities available with cheap active monitoring – not only will the quantified-self movement have new tools to track their body, but doctors will have a new tool to monitor at-risk patients in real time.  Sure, there are other technologies on the market – but what sets OSU apart is how cheap it will be, the size of the chip and the ability to work without a battery. The technology behind the chip also opens up the door to utilizing multiple chips around the body to continuously track specific metrics.

The researchers have submitted the provisional patent for the new technology and will be starting stage 2 of clinical trials, in collaboration with OHSU, to test the reliability and robustness of the data.  There are a couple of hurdles the team still has to figure out – namely getting the chip to work with one small antennae (vs. the two commercial antennas on there now), and getting the RF energy harvester working at a range conducive to draw power from nearby cellphones. With those (relatively small) hurdles left, they think it will take one to two years to get through FDA approval, and be able to securely record and transmit data.

While it seems new technology is constantly coming out and getting smaller, it’s wonderful to learn about labs dedicated to solving healthcare problems with technology.

I see a lot of potential in this technology and am excited for the day I can actively monitor my vital signs with my cellphone. The future of medicine is getting closer and closer each day.

Image courtesy of OSU via flickr.

Miraj Sanghvi manages the blog for Medigram, which provides a HIPAA-compliant communication platform to make medical conversations convenient and secure. He can be reached at .