Wearable Sensors On Your Skin

An international team at Penn State led by [Larry Cheng] made a breakthrough in printing sensors directly on skin without heat. The breakthrough here is the development of a room-temperature sintering technique. Typical sintering of copper happens at 300 C, and can be further lowered to 100 C by adding nanoparticles. But even 100 C is too hot, since skin starts to burn at around 40 C.

You can obtain their journal article if you want the details, but basically their technique combines the ingredients in peelable face masks and eggshells. With this printed circuit is applied to the skin, the sintering process only requires a hair dryer on the cool setting, and results can bend and fold without breaking the connections. A hot shower will remove the circuit without damaging the circuit or your skin. [Larry] says the circuits can be recycled.

They are using these sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, blood oxygen levels, and heart performance indicators. They’ve even linked these various on-body sensors with a WiFi network for ease of monitoring. After reading this report, we’re left wondering, if the sensor is directly on your skin, can it be really called wearable?

We’ve written about printable inks before, but for printed circuit board applications.  We can’t help but wonder if this technology would help solve some problems inherent in that technology, as well. Thanks to [Qes] for the tip.

Stop Bad Laws Before They Start

With everything else going on this summer, you might be forgiven for not keeping abreast of new proposed regulatory frameworks, but if you’re interested in software-defined radio (SDR) or even reflashing your WiFi router, you should. Right now, there’s a proposal to essentially prevent you from flashing your own firmware/software to any product with a radio in it before the European Commission. This obviously matters to Europeans, but because manufacturers often build hardware to the strictest global requirements, it may impact everyone. What counts as radio equipment? Everything from WiFi routers to wearables, SDR dongles to shortwave radios.

The idea is to prevent rogue reconfigurable radios from talking over each other, and prevent consumers from bricking their routers and radios. Before SDR was the norm, and firmware was king, it was easy for regulators to test some hardware and make sure that it’s compliant, but now that anyone can re-flash firmware, how can they be sure that a radio is conformant? Prevent the user from running their own firmware, naturally. It’s pretty hard for Hackaday to get behind that approach.

The impact assessment sounds more like advertising copy for the proposed ruling than an honest assessment, but you should give it a read because it lets you know where the commission is coming from. Reassuring is that they mention open-source software development explicitly as a good to be preserved, but their “likely social impacts” include “increased security and safety” and they conclude that there are no negative environmental impacts. What do you do when the manufacturer no longer wants to support the device? I have plenty of gear that’s no longer supported by firmware updates that is both more secure and simply not in the landfill because of open-source firmware.

Similarly, “the increased capacity of the EU to autonomously secure its products is also likely to help the citizens to better protect their information-related rights” is from a bizarro world where you can trust Xiaomi’s home-automation firmware to not phone home, but can’t trust an open-source replacement.

Public comment is still open, and isn’t limited to European citizens. As mentioned above, it might affect you even if you’re not in the EU, so feel free to make your voice heard. You have until September, and you’ll be in some great company if you register your complaints. Indeed, reading through the public comments is quite heartening: Universities, researchers, and hackers alike have brought up reasons to steer clear of the proposed approach. We hope that the commission hears us.

Detect COVID-19 Symptoms Using Wearable Device And AI

A new study from West Virginia University (WVU) Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) uses a wearable device and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict COVID-19 up to 3 days before symptoms occur. The study has been an impressive undertaking involving over 1000 health care workers and frontline workers in hospitals across New York, Philadelphia, Nashville, and other critical COVID-19 hotspots.

The implementation of the digital health platform uses a custom smartphone application coupled with an Ōura smart ring to monitor biometric signals such as respiration and temperature. The platform also assesses psychological, cognitive, and behavioral data through surveys administered through a smartphone application.

We know that wearables tend to suffer from a lack of accuracy, particularly during activity. However, the Ōura ring appears to take measurements while the user is very still, especially during sleep. This presents an advantage as the accuracy of wearable devices greatly improves when the user isn’t moving. RNI noted that the Ōura ring has been the most accurate device they have tested.

Given some of the early warning signals for COVID-19 are fever and respiratory distress, it would make sense that a device able to measure respiration and temperature could be used as an early detector of COVID-19. In fact, we’ve seen a few wearable device companies attempt much of what RNI is doing as well as a few DIY attempts. RNI’s study has probably been the most thorough work released so far, but we’re sure that many more are upcoming.

The initial phase of the study was deployed among healthcare and frontline workers but is now open to the general public. Meanwhile the National Basketball Association (NBA) is coordinating its re-opening efforts using Ōura’s technology.

We hope to see more results emerge from RNI’s very important work. Until then, stay safe Hackaday.

Defense Department Funds Wearables To Detect COVID-19

As many countries across the globe begin loosening their stay-at-home orders, we’re seeing government agencies and large companies prepare for the lasting effects of the pandemic. A recent solicitation from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) indicates they are investing $25 million into wearable devices that can detect early signs of COVID-19.

Based on a few details from the request for project proposals, it looks like the DoD is targeting mostly companies in this particular solicitation, but have left the door open for academic institutions as well. That makes intuitive sense. Companies can generally operate at a faster pace than most academic research labs. Given the urgency of the matter, faster turnarounds in technological development are imperative. Nonetheless, we have seen quite a bit of important COVID-19 work coming from academic research labs and we imagine that battling this pandemic will take all the brilliant minds we can muster together.

It’s good to see the DoD join the fight in what could be a lengthy battle with the coronavirus.

Please feel free to read through the request for project proposals for more details.

PCB Jewelry Never Looked So Good

[Gautchh] wanted to make something nice for his girlfriend. Being the DIY enthusiast he is, he thought a hand-made gift would resonate with her better than something he could pick up from the store. Enter NeckLight, a glow in the dark PCB necklace. He was first inspired by another project he ran across on Instructables, then decided to put his own little spin on the design. It’s cool how that works. Interestingly enough, it was his first time using Fusion 360, but you probably wouldn’t know that if you took a look at the results.

Aside from soldering, the trickiest part of this project was trying to get the LED intensities just right. [Gautchh] found the best way to do this was experimentally by testing each LED color with a series of resistors. He wanted to ensure he could get the color intensity and the LED current just right. Finally, with a touch of acetone, he was done (though he might want to try some alternatives to acetone next time).

[Gautchh] also thinks that this project would be a really nice way for beginners to learn surface mount (SMD) soldering. We’ve seen a few cool SMD LED projects before. Who could forget those competitive soldering challenges over at DEF CON?

Anyway. Thanks, [Gautchh]. We hope your girlfriend, and your dog, enjoyed their gifts.

A Smart Bandage For Monitoring Chronic Wounds

Here at Hackaday, we’re always enthralled by cool biohacks and sensor development that enable us to better study and analyze the human body. We often find ourselves perusing Google Scholar and PubMed to find the coolest projects even if it means going back in time a year or two. It was one of those scholarly excursions that brought us to this nifty smart bandage for monitoring wound healing by the engineers of FlexiLab at Purdue University. The device uses an omniphobic (hydrophobic and oleophobic) paper-based substrate coupled with an onboard impedance analyzer (AD5933), an electrochemical sensor (the same type of sensor in glucometers) for measuring uric acid and pH (LMP91000), and a 2.4 GHz antenna for wirelessly transmitting the data (nRF24L01). All this is programmed with an Arduino Nano. They even released their source code.

To detect uric acid, they used the enzyme uricase, which is very specific to uric acid and exhibits low cross-reactivity with other compounds. They drop cast uric acid onto a silver/silver chloride electrode printed on the omniphobic paper. Similarly, to detect pH, they drop cast a pH-responsive polymer called polyaniline emeraldine salt (PANI-ES) between two separate silver/silver chloride electrodes. All that was left was to attach the electrodes to the LMP91000, do a bit of programming, and there they were with their own electrochemical sensor. The impedance analyzer was a bit simpler to develop, simply attaching un-modified electrodes to the AD5933 and placing the electrodes on the wound.

The authors noted that the device uses a much simpler manufacturing process compared to smart bandages published by other academics, being compatible with large-scale manufacturing techniques such as roll-to-roll printing. Overcoming manufacturing hurdles is a critical step in getting your idea into the hands of consumers. Though they have a long way to go, FlexiLab appears to be on the right track. We’ll check back in every so often to see what they’re up to.

Until then, take a look at some other electric bandage projects on Hackaday or even make your own electrochemical sensor.

Rapid Prototyping System Gives Wheels To Wearables

Wearables are kind of a perplexing frontier for electronics. On the one hand, it’s the best possible platform for showing off a circuit everywhere you go. On the other hand, the whole endeavor is fiddly because the human body has no straight lines and moves around quite a bit. Circuits need to be flexible and comfortable. In other words, a wearable has to be bearable.

[Konstantin], [Raimund], and [Jürgen] have developed an intriguing system for prototyping e-textiles that opens up the wearables world to those who don’t sew and makes the prototyping process way easier for everyone.

It’s a small and portable roll-on ironing device that lays down different kinds of custom ‘tapes’ on to textiles. The conductive fabric tapes can be used as touchable traces, and can support components such as flexible e-ink screens and solar panels. Some tapes provide single or multiple points of connectivity, and others are helper substrates like polyimide tape that multiply the possibilities for complex circuits.

The device uses a modified soldering iron to transfer the tapes, which are loaded onto 3D-printed spools that double as the wheels. Check it out after the break — there’s a 30-second tour and a 5-minute exploration of the whole process.

Everyone needs to prototype, even the seasoned stitchers. The next time you’re thinking in thread, throw some magnets into the process.

Continue reading “Rapid Prototyping System Gives Wheels To Wearables”