Data, Devices & Health

illustration of a hand wearing different smart watches

Data is key to modern medicine, and everyday wearables offer the promise of more comprehensive data for better health outcomes. Unfortunately, due to multiple points of failure – including device removal, jiggling and loss of contact or loss of power – Fitbits and smartwatches still don’t come close to delivering clinical-grade data.

Led by Philipp Gutruf, assistant professor in the College of Engineering, the Gutruf Lab is overcoming these deficiencies with “biosymbiotic” wearables: custom-printed/perfect-fit mesh
wearables that provide 24/7, high-fidelity sensing anywhere on the body. They get power and send data wirelessly, disappear under clothing and are so lightweight that users can forget they’re there.

The lab is also creating implantables that open avenues for gathering data and delivering interventions. A collaboration with University of Arizona orthopedic surgeons created the
world’s first battery-free, digital, internal sensors to capture data on bone health. The devices have integrated LEDs to deliver therapeutic optical stimulation, all powered wirelessly.

The research team also co-invented a next-gen pacemaker. In lieu of electrical leads attached with screws or hooks, a soft, wireless, battery-free “glove” unfolds around the heart. Placement is less invasive, and rather than shocking the heart – including its pain receptors – it issues precisely
targeted light that only stimulates neurons that trigger contraction.

Ultimately, the scientists see these two domains converging: seamlessly integrated wearable and implantable devices – wireless, fully automated and always on – that merge sensing and stimulation to deliver unprecedented insight into health and provide closed loop, personalized interventions.


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