Remote monitoring of patients' health has taken another step towards a potential mass market with the development of an electronic skin patch that could be produced in many millions at a cost of less than 50 cents each (30p).
The patch was developed by PA Consulting, which advises clients as well as developing technologies alongside them. The product is intended for commercialisation in the near future by unnamed clients in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries.
Although there is a lot of competition in the sector, Frazer Bennett, project leader, says, "No one else has built a system that can be manufactured so inexpensively on a scale of 200 million patches a year."
The PA patch (pictured above) contains a monitor, battery and low-power radio transmitter, which sends readings to a more powerful wristwatch transmitter and then on to the patient's doctor or carer.
This system can measure heartbeat, body temperature, blood oxygen level, lung function - and whether the patient is taking their medication.
Bennett says PA is collaborating with four companies for different applications, with pharmaceutical adherence and lung function likely to be first to market. In the longer term, there is potential for using similar sensors in sports or in monitoring workers in dangerous jobs such as mining or firefighting.