Primarily worn by health and fitness enthusiasts today, smartwatches could soon take off as comprehensive health monitoring devices in their own right, tracking everything from blood cancer to levels of air pollution.
What the smart wristband detailed in a new paper out in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering currently lacks in the design department – the device is an unwieldy-looking strip of circuitry and sensors – it more than makes up in terms of functionality.
Like most all other smartwatches on the market right now, the new wristband tracks a number of health parameters and sends them to a smarthphone via Bluetooth.
Using a standard lancet prick (more convenient interfaces to come), users will be able to configure the device to analyse their blood count, test for certain types of cancer, quantify bacteria, and conduct a variety of protein tests.
“There’s a whole range of diseases where blood cell counts are very important,” said senior author on the study Mehdi Javanmard. “Abnormally high or low white blood cell counts are indicators of certain cancers like leukaemia, for example.”
Before such applications are possible, though, Javanmard and his team will have to conduct “extensive assessments” on large amounts of people and make the device “more rugged” for daily use.
In the near-enough future, the new device – as well as similar ones manufactured by a variety of companies – could be used both for commercial and clinical purposes.
For instance, health-conscious users might deploy them to monitor their insulin levels or to check the air quality outside before stepping out, while patients who require further testing could set their smartbands to take the necessary measurements and send them back to the hospital in real-time.
More importantly, such devices could also be used by miners to inspect their workplaces for dangerous gases, thereby reducing death and injury rates.
While impressive to the extent that they are, current wearables are usually limited to a mere handful of parameters. According to the study’s lead author Abbas Furniturewalla, however, this might all change when the next-gen hits the shelves.
“The ability for a wearable device to monitor the counts of different cells in our bloodstream would take personal health monitoring to the next level,” said Furniturewalla in a press release.