How your contact lenses could talk to your phone

With interscatter technology, contact lenses could monitor blood sugar, credit cards could talk to each other

Your contact lenses or a sensor implanted in your brain could some day send health updates to your smartphone and even your doctor.

A new technology called interscatter communication that's being developed at the University of Washington would allow small devices, such as contact lenses, implantable sensors and credit cards, to communicate with everyday devices, like smartphones and smart watches.

"Wireless connectivity for implanted devices can transform how we manage chronic diseases," said UW researcher Vikram Iyer, in a statement. "For example, a contact lens could monitor a diabetics blood sugar level in tears and send notifications to the phone when the blood sugar level goes down."

Researchers at the Seattle university built a few proof-of-concept demos for applications that previously had been impractical or impossible to create. One demonstration was for a smart contact lens and another was for an implantable neural recording device that could communicate directly with a smartphone or watch.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and Google Faculty Research Awards. Google has shown particular interest in the technology and was conducting its own research into smart contact lenses that can test diabetics' blood glucose levels two years ago.

Using wireless chips and miniaturized glucose sensors embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material, the smart lenses were being designed to test blood sugar levels in the user's tears.

When it announced the research in 2014, Google said its scientists were experimenting with using LED lights in the lenses to alert users if their glucose levels were off.

The UW research could solve the communications problem for many devices, including sensors and credit card, as well as contact lenses.

The interscatter communication works by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi transmissions over the air that can be picked up by a smartphone or smart watch. That enables these devices, which have very little power, to communicate with other devices without any extra equipment.

UW's research team, which is made up of computer scientists and electric engineers, said that by using common mobile devices to generate Wi-Fi signals, they can use 10,000 times less energy than they would using other communication methods.

"That means that we can use just as much bandwidth as a Wi-Fi network and you can still have other Wi-Fi networks operate without interference," said electrical engineering doctoral student and researcher Bryce Kellogg, in a statement.

Aside from the medical applications, the UW researchers said that interscatter communications also could be used to enable smart credit cards to communicate with each other.

For instance, if two people want to split a restaurant bill, they might simply tap their cards together to share the information.

"Providing the ability for these everyday objects like credit cards – in addition to implanted devices – to communicate with mobile devices can unleash the power of ubiquitous connectivity," said Shyam Gollakota, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at UW.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?