Mobile control over implantable medical devices is skin deep

A group of researchers and design experts have created an "implantable user interface" device that when inserted under the skin, can be used to control, communicate with, and stream data from, implanted medical devices like pacemakers and hearing aids. They can even transmit information that the devices collect directly to smartphones or other mobile devices for further transmission to clinicians, according to a story at Txchnologist.com.

The implants also could help patients keep track of the devices, and alert the patient to any problems. Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada and University of Pottsdam, Germany--plus design company Autodesk Research--have tested different versions of the interfaces, including ones that can be directly tapped through the skin, or activated via light frequencies, or even controlled via audio signals. The research shows that in most cases, the sensors can send and receive instructions through the skin.

"Medical implants already exist, but there are no real ways to easily get the status of these devices, or use them to get information about the state of your health, or be able to control the doses of various drugs," Autodesk researcher Tovi Grossman tells Txchnologist.com.

Implantable user interfaces, while they may now require smartphones or other wireless capability to transmit their data, are actually the next generation of mobile technology, according to the researchers. Under the skin, they're invisible (for any patients who have issues with others knowing they're using the device), protected from the patient's activities, such as swimming or sports, and are always with the user and always "on"--taking human error out of the equation, the researchers say in the report.

Such technology would be a step beyond the some of the latest mobile tech in this arena, like an app that allows physicians to use their iPads to guide nurses through pacemaker adjustments.

To learn more:
- check out the Txchnologist article
- read the study from University of Pottsdam and Autodesk Research

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