Edible technology

No, it doesn’t taste very good. I’m not going to talk today about the technology of what we eat. I do want to show you a couple of examples of technology that we ingest, swallow, carry around inside us for a while… Ready?

Something that has been already around for a few years, and was initially used in space travel: The CorTempTM pill. This tiny swallowable device with its built-in microbattery sends your internal body temperature to a portable device. Picture the safety implications: athletes, firefighters, soldiers ingest these so that they can be pulled out if their temperature gets dangerously high. Lives are saved.

internal temperature control

image from HQ Inc

But, as with all micro-gadgets, the power source is the problem. This pill is powered by a tiny silver oxide battery, which isn’t cheap. I so hope nobody tries to recycle theirs…

On to a more, um, “ecological” power source: you.

One of the big problems doctors face is monitoring medicine consumption. Is the medicine not working, or is the patient not taking it correctly? That uncertainty ends up being expensive, both for the healthcare industry and for the patient. Proteus Digital Health has developed miniscule sensors made of non-toxic and inexpensive silicon, copper and magnesium that react with your stomach acids to become a tiny battery. These sensors can be implanted into pills, which when activated, transmit the exact time of ingestion to a patch you’re wearing on your arm, say. That information, along with biometric data such as heartbeat, temperature, sleep patterns and activity level gets sent to your phone and also directly to your doctor, with your permission, of course. That way he or she can monitor exactly when you take your medicine, and how you’re doing. Doesn’t that sound more convenient than countless trips to the doctor’s office? These sensors have been FDA approved and supposedly will be available this year or next.

vitamin authentication

image via The Verge

The same technology can be used for password authentication. Yes, you swallow a pill that makes your whole body an authenticator. The pill is activated on contact with your stomach acids, and transmits an 18-bit ECG-like signal which will unlock your phone, your computer, your car, even your front door. This pill already has FDA approval, and apparently you can safely take 30 of these pills a day. I have not been able to find out how long the signal lasts once activated. I would imagine that, with no activating gastric juices, it loses its signal after, um, elimination.

I’m sure that we all agree that passwords are a complete hassle and not very secure (I mean, no way you use the same password for more than one site, right?), and ingestible passwords would eliminate the need to remember sequences… But, you would still have to remember to take the pill. And, how do you keep your pills safe? Lock and key, sure, but wouldn’t the safest way be a password-activated safe? Personally, I prefer to wait until fingerprint recognition or eye-scanning becomes the norm. That I’m looking forward to.

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