Computerized pill can track your health

August 12, 2009 7:03:24 PM PDT
Silicon Valley is pioneering a new wave of technology to put computer chips on pills to track patients, and they are digestible.

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It's called Intelligent Medicine and it's a high tech pill that does more than dispense medicine in the human body.

The pill is imbedded with a digestible computer chip, activated by gastric juices after the pill is swallowed.

"We're making a computer chip out of food ingredients, basically things that you'd find in a multivitamin bottle so they're very safe. They're things you swallow every day," said Proteus founder and CEO Andrew Thompson.

The chip then sends data through body tissue to an adhesive patch placed on the back or stomach. The circuits on the patch then connect to a wireless network, like a cell phone.

That way, a doctor, nurse or even a relative will be able to confirm the patient took the medicine and see vital signs, such as respiration, heart rate and body temperature, even on a mobile phone.

Proteus sees a global market for its digestible chip, empowering family caregivers to keep tabs on their loved ones and to extend patient care to remote villages in the third world.

Maria Holen is participating in the clinical trials. She's also a Proteus chemist.

"I was a little bit nervous because I do kind of have a sensitive stomach, but once I took the tablet, it didn't taste like anything. I swallowed it, and I didn't have any effects at all," said Holen.

Once in production, the chips will be inside the pill to make them tamper-proof and invisible. The chip costs only a fraction of a penny per pill.

Intelligent Medicine is going to place demands on wireless bandwidth. Ericsson has expanded its Silicon Valley research and development to meet that challenge.

"That includes the hardware, the technology inside the boxes, and our relationships with the operators, and we are getting ready for that explosion," said Ericsson Strategy VP Arpit Joshipura.

Proteus hopes to have regulatory approval soon and have the system available commercially in the U.K. in two years and in the U.S. in three years.

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