Doctors are currently researching the possibility of using small sensors embedded within a person’s skin to detect problems and transmit treatment without even visiting a doctor. The skin sensors would be tiny, less than the width of a single hair, and would constantly monitor vital signs using sensors embedded in the skin. The scientists hope the development could be used to catch illnesses just as they begin to show signs that even trained doctors would miss.
The incredible development is expected to become available to professional athletes later this year, and could be one of the first steps toward the average person becoming a cybernetically enhanced being. Professor John Rogers of the University of Illinois has had success using the tiny silicon membrane patches, and those being tested haven’t reported feeling any pain as the implants are integrated into their skin. But the attachments don’t just detect heart rate and temperature. Professor Rogers says the technology could theoretically be used to monitor heart rate, muscle use, and even brain activity.
In the past, the use of implants for the purpose of monitoring people has come to the attention of many groups who say they may be used for the purpose of monitoring and controlling individuals. RFID chips have been used in the past by implanting an integrated circuit encased in a membrane or silicate glass into a human hand just beneath the skin for purposes of identification. The first human RFID chip was implanted in 1998 by hobbyist Kevin Warwick. Since then similar chips have been used to identify patients and personnel in high security fields. Security experts have warned, however, that the RFID signals used by these chips are often easy to steal from individuals by those with the proper equipment. Though we are still years from developing a small implantable chip that can track the latitude and longitude of a person via GPS, in 2008 a bill was discussed in Indonesia to use such a device to track the movements of those infected with HIV to keep it from spreading. While it was abandoned due to the limits of the RFID’s GPS sending and receiving technology, critics have since paid close attention to developments in the world of implantable RFID chips.
But while implantable chips are often criticized as a potential source of abuse by governments and others, the health monitoring patches being developed are being designed to patch onto the skin on the outside, giving patients control over whether they keep them or not. While information on the patches is still coming out as new developments take place, it does not appear that these particular devices will be quite the same as the long dreaded RFID implants. Quite the contrary, this may actually be an opportunity for medical science to make a breakthrough in developing better early treatments for illnesses. Will medical science make cyborgs of us all?