UCLA engineers announced Wednesday they have designed a thin adhesive film that could upgrade a smartwatch into a health-monitoring system that looks for chemical indicators in sweat to give a real-time snapshot of what is happening inside the body.
UCLA has applied for a patent on the technology, in which the disposable, double-sided film attaches to the underside of a smartwatch and collects and analyzes the chemical makeup of droplets of sweat.
The watch-facing side turns the chemical signals into electrical ones that can be read, processed and displayed on the smartwatch.
Researchers designed a custom smartwatch and app to work with the system, but the concept could someday be applied to popular models of smartwatches, according to postdoctoral scholar Bo Wang, one of the co-lead authors of the study.
Wang said researchers incorporated enzymatic-sensing layers in the film to target glucose and lactate, which indicate body metabolism levels, and nutrients such as choline.
“The inspiration for this work came from recognizing that we already have more than 100 million smartwatches and other wearable tech sold worldwide that have powerful data-collection, computation and transmission capabilities,” said the study’s leader, Sam Emaminejad, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. “Now we have come up with a solution to upgrade these wearables into health-monitoring platforms, enabling them to measure molecular-level information so that they give us a much deeper understanding of what’s happening inside our body in real time.”
Researchers said they tested the film on people involved in various activities, including doing office work and engaging in vigorous activity such as boxing, and noted that the stickiness of the film was sufficient for it to stay on the skin and on the watch without the need for a wrist strap for an entire day.
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