Thu, Jun 27, 2013 - Page 9 News List

The medicine that can monitor patients

Ingestible computing might look like conventional pills, but they are in fact microscopic robots monitoring how a patient is responding to medicine and detecting movement and rest patterns

By Nick Bilton  /  NY Times News Service, SAN FRANCISCO

Lee Carbonelli, HQ’s marketing director, said the company hoped, in the next year, to have a consumer version that would wirelessly communicate to a smartphone app.

Future generations of these pills could even be convenience tools.

Last month, Regina Dugan, senior vice president for Motorola Mobility’s advanced technology and projects group, showed off an example, along with wearable radio frequency identification tattoos that attach to the skin like a sticker, at the D: All Things Digital technology conference.

Once that pill is in your body, you could pick up your smartphone and not have to type in a password. Instead, you are the password. Sit in the car and it will start. Touch the handle to your home door and it will automatically unlock.

“Essentially, your entire body becomes your authentication token,” Dugan said.

However, if people are worried about the privacy implications of wearable computing devices, just wait until they try to wrap their heads around ingestible computing.

“This is yet another one of these technologies where there are wonderful options and terrible options, simultaneously,” said John Perry Barlow, a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group.

“The wonderful is that there are a great number of things you want to know about yourself on a continual basis, especially if you’re diabetic or suffer from another disease. The terrible is that health insurance companies could know about the inner workings of your body,” he said.

The implications of a tiny computer inside your body being hacked? Let us say they are troubling.

There is, of course, one last question for this little pill. After it has done its job, flowing down around the stomach and through the intestinal tract, what happens next?

“It passes naturally thought the body in about 24 hours,” Carbonelli said, but since each pill costs US$46, “some people choose to recover and recycle it.”

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