WiFi Wound Healing and Sensor Tatoos

WiFi Wound Healing and Sensor Tatoos

Here are two new technological possibilities that show promise in keeping us healthy.

Dissolving, infection treating implants

Scientists from Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana have developed electronic implants that treat staph infections, and then dissolve:


Temporary Tatoo sensors

The Center for Wearable Sensors at the University of California San Diego has been experimenting with attaching sensors to temporary tattoos in order to extract data from the body:



Photo: Spider silk prettily decorated by a morning fog

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5 Replies

  • Wow! Some amazing inventions coming out. If it had been April 1st, I'd have thought these were jokes!

    And a FANTASTIC photo, Neil...

  • I'd be happy to have a tattoo that reported accurate, repeatable temperature.

    Thermometers these days (digital or the German galinstan liquid metal ones) are often so inaccurate. I compared one of my digital ones, which at least gives consistent results, with the one at the clinic, and found it was .6F (.3C) low. Turns out, that's quite acceptable to the industry. But it makes a difference if doctors and employers think that 99.5F is a fever, but 98.9F is not. I'm not even sure that I trust the doctor's thermometer!

    Diabetics and others with circulatory syndromes could benefit from monitoring circulation based on temperature. Multiple Sclerosis sufferers could benefit from temperature monitoring. Even ovulation monitoring could benefit (honey, it's beeping! New pavlovian responses ...)

    But can it be done accurately? I'd pay good money ...


  • Seymour, you raise some valid concerns about body temperature measurement accuracy and repeatability. Given there's a range of healthy body temperatures and those vary on an underlying daily cycle before the variations from exercise, illness etc, are superimposed, those interested in tracking changes in their body temperature really do need to get familiar with what their normal reading is with a specific thermometer. If your normal temperature is significantly lower than the average, hopefully you have a regular doctor that knows this and takes you seriously if you say you are feeling ill, despite a temperature not much above normal for another patient. But good luck at A&E!

    A quick web search didn't turn up much on actual clinical thermometer accuracy and repeatability. A Washington Post review comparing stick and infrared clinical thermometers stated "The most accurate thermometers were within 0.5 degrees of the medical thermometer, and all but one were at least good at repeating a retaken temperature."


    This PubMed report that looked at the accuracy of stick vs infrared clinical thermometer measurements on admitted febrile children was a bit more reassuring:



  • Neil -

    If I went to the doctor every time I felt bad or had a slight fever, I'd live there several days a week. I don't call in sick ... I call in well! ;^)

    Not sure what you mean by A&E ...

    The PubMed abstract did not mention what brand or how many different samples of that brand they used.

    Here's another PubMed article that likes the German galinstan - Gallium, Indium, and Stannum (tin), which I believe is currently patented by a German company:


    Again, the abstract does not mention brand or how many different samples of the brand were tested.

    I've got a CR (Consumer Reports) subscription. They did not test liquid metal glass thermometers. But a quick view of the top selling galinstan thermometers on Amazon.com reveals that they often have problems - either getting stuck, or the inherent delay in max reading (several minutes). You often cannot shake them down - spin them in a sock or stocking instead.

    CR likes the infrared forehead thermometers best, but I've had really bad luck with one so far - returned. So it really seems to depend on brand, and even the perhaps how long it sat on the shelf (battery age). Even good brands vary from unit to unit, often brushed off as "someone dropped it." Clearly, the manufacturing tech is just not that great yet. One digital oral they liked best got 3 follow ratings by readers - all 1 star out of 5, citing consistantly low readings.

    The highest rated one - a Vicks V977 temporal (forehead) infrared garnered 1.5 stars out of 5 from 12 readers, citing very inconsistent readings. Clearly, bad quality control.

    Reader ratings are likely to be low - people need to vent. Even still, caveat emptor.

    So I'd like to recommend that no matter which thermometer you use, take your temperature several times, with at least a minute between takes. If it varies, pitch it in the bin (unless it's mercury!) or try to get a refund.

    Take your thermometer with you on your visit to the clinic, and check it against the doctor's. A thermometer that consistantly reads low is still good - just do the arithmetic.

    And as you mentioned, learn your temperature curves - usually lowest in early morning, peaking after noon, high after exercise.

    I've found that my temperature rises to low fever level (99.5-100.5F) after I play exciting video games for an hour or so - but only after I stop. I think it's stress hormones, which makes me wonder if I should quit, and become a monk. But I learned in immunology class that fevers make it easier for your immune system to kill pathogens, so maybe it's good. But stress hormones lead to inflammation, so maybe it's back to the monastery.

    I think I need a calibrated coin to flip. ;^)


  • Very interesting response Seymour with lots of useful info. I like your tip about taking your thermometer to the doctor's for comparison purposes. I do the same with weight scales. Obviously I don't take them with me :) , but do check for the difference as soon as possible the day my weight is measured.

    Blood pressure measurements are another problematic matter and I don't know how you could arrange a temporary tattoo sensor for that. My GP, who would be about my age, uses an automatic unit which has the advantage of providing a big clear LCD read out. He often has several goes before he is happy with an eventual reading (which makes me dubious about the actual result). My much younger haematologist tends to use the old fashioned sphygmomanometer, but have you noticed how they are going out of fashion as a doctor accessory?

    Sorry A&E = Accident and Emergency


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