A Weird Thing

Step on board, the Future is moving quickly.

As the giants jump on-board things are moving very quickly in the wearable tech world. Maybe it’s time upon the news that huge cash laden organisations such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are now funnelling massive amounts of money into the R&D specifically into the development of health and lifestyle wearable technology, that we took some time to take a look into the frankly amazing world that now seems to be just around the corner.

A Sick world

It’s a sick world, filled with sick puppies. I’m sure that we are all aware of that fact. However even I was blind to just how decrepit state we are in until I started to read that there are serious concerns regarding the bluetooth vulnerability surrounding medical implants.

As more and more devices being fitted within the human body from pacemakers and insulin pumps to name but two, an ever increasing percentage of which use a bluetooth signal for control, data gathering and maintenance. These devices use a body area network system or, BAN. Now these systems emit a readable bluetooth signal of up to 10 metres form the body.

Now on a human level it takes me some effort to see the sinister problem with this. But then someone sits you down and highlights once again for you the sinister events that not only have already taken place through our ever opening and ever more accessible world. But also the stuff that we are becoming hardened to, that we take for granted, and that we as a matter of automation, accept that we need to take precautions to avoid. Things that we would have felt shocked about and taken umbridge at only 10 years or so ago.

From there, and with some knowledge of the ease at which the bluetooth signal can be accessed, the nightmare scenario of somebody armed with the frankly easily avail;able technical know-how and with a large enough grudge (let’s face it, all of our fuses are considerably shorter now-a-days), to seek to take control with the intention of harm, any implant their intended target should be unfortunate enough to need.

Hence the race to resolve the issue.

This is a race being lead by a team of engineers at Purdue, and their attempts to resolve the problem before it is realised, by using the body itself.

“We’re connecting more and more devices to the human body network, from smart watches and fitness trackers to head-mounted virtual reality displays,” says Shreyas Sen, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering who specialises in sensing and communication systems, in a press release.

“The challenge has not only been keeping this communication within the body so that no one can intercept it, but also getting higher bandwidth and less battery consumption,” he says.

“We show for the first time a physical understanding of the security properties of human body communication to enable a covert body area network, so that no one can snoop important information,” Sen says.

The proposed new technology magnetoquasistatic field, has been shown to not only produce a signal that is not detectable further than a distance of 1cm, from the surface of the skin, but also requires 99% less energy than the current bluetooth technology.

The emerging technology is currently protected by patent through
Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialisation, but once proven it is difficult to see it failing to become the industry standard given the security and privacy levels that it seems to offer.

Charging Forwards

Even though this blog is embedded deeply within it’s infancy a flick through my articles will no doubt readily reveal that the charging of watch batteries is a bug-bear of mine, and one which i have already painted my opinion on a number of times. Given that I have been the proud owner of a Citizen chronograph that has never needed winding or charging from an external device since purchased some 25 years ago, I find the current situation both frustrating and, to be very honest insincere.

We are lead to believe that the intended use for a smartwatch or fitness tracker is to provide full 24hr monitoring of a number of bodily health indicators. Indicators which are fast becoming more and more specific and if we are to believe what we are being told, are ever more health critical.If we are honest, we have to admit that without the delivery of this promise the smartwatch or fitness tracker would have remained, at best, a minority, fringe article that was viewed as an enthusiast’s article only.

The figures are not disputed, and are really quite depressing, especially when you factor in what we all understand about the human condition.

Let’s start with the 24/7/365 ideology of the industry claims. First of all, the longer your watch can survive without charging is, much as doesn’t matter directly linked with how long it takes to charge your device. So to avoid finding ourselves without our precious watch, most of us tend to charge our watches pretty much every day, and because we tend to prefer to do that when we are not really doing anything that could be measured, we tend to end up having them on charge most days for an average of a couple of hours per day.

That immediately is a 1/12th reduction in your watch capabilities. Now consider this (and I admit I am guilty). Because we are poor at remembering to charge our watch when it needs it we decide to forgo the sleep monitor available to us through our device, we decide to take it off when we go to bed and charge it then. So in effect, at the very best the intention that you bought the watch is vastly diminished. In certain circles this is being calculated as being anything up to 30%. Now if you add into the equation that around 60% of all sudden illness, that could be alerted by our devices happen either through the night, or at least when we are at rest, then the possibility of benefiting through any preemptive alert are vastly reduced.

The Knight on the Charger.

Although most companies have been working tirelessly on the issue for a number of years, the fundamental problems of battery charge has proven stubborn to say the very least and units remain frustratingly either grossly undercharged, or discharge alarmingly quickly, and in more cases than is acceptable both.

The one stand out exception to this has come from a source that wasn’t expected, and that is from Matrix, and their Powerwatch.which was reviewed here, earlier in the year.

Now Governing bodies, and in particular the EU, do not have the greatest reputation for innovation, or R&D, especially in the tech. industry. Hats off however on this occasion to the EU, because not only are they funding some ground-breaking research, but they have a very clear vision and remit to which they are heading.

I know, even I nearly fell over aghast.

Horizon 2020, is a massive research program funded in whole by the European Union, with funds believed to be between 80 – 100M Euros at it’s disposal. A subsidiary within the group is Smart2Go and they have just announced that it is working on a “autonomous energy supply platform,” and if it succeeds, it has the potential to kick-start the development of a new generation of wearable devices that we don’t need to think about charging.

The Smart2go project brief, although seemingly outrageously ambitious, is given gravitas because at its head is the renowned German organic electronics specialist firm Fraunhofer FEP , along with battery giants Varta. So ears within the community pricked up when the brief was announced. The Smart2go intent is to produce a modular solution that requires no external charge and that can be implemented into many wearable platforms.

Interesting news indeed. We will do our best to keep you across any developments.

Our site is driven by your feedback and comments so please feel invited to leave your thoughts in the area below.



5 Replies to “A Weird Thing”

  1. I do actually agree with you. Having to charge your smartwatch which serves as a health monitor can potentially prove risky. Even if a person is asleep, I believe there should be a system to ensure the watches are on at all time. Credit to government and the big multinational companies, for looking into this problem and trying to find a solution going forward. I hope a solution is preferred in the nearest future, to ensure we get mire effectiveness from these products.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Warm regards

  2. Technology is always.. changing and evolving very fast. I remember that 10 years ago, smartphone is still a rare item and only a few of my friends owns them (usually the riches). Now, even people with low economic status can easily have one. Because of your writing here, I’m also curious about Smart2go project progress. How long they are planning to finally achieve the solution? Please keep us up to date with their development progress 🙂

    1. The Smart2Go project has only just been announced and currently i have no indication of the target times that have been set. Rest assured that I will be doing my best to keep up with progress and reporting back.

  3. Hi Andrian, this is quite an interesting piece. Technology has advanced so much compared to few years ago. I must say that this is my first time of hearing about devices (wearable devices) using bluetooth signal for gathering and maintenance of data. It is truly a sinister problem to see that BAN system emits Bluetooth signal up to 10 meters from the body, the worst is that there is no uproar about this.The issue of charging our smart watches is often done out of conviction that it is better to charge them during sleep hours thereby defeating the aim and purpose for procuring such device.  

  4. I have a few friends that have Insulin pumps that are connected to their cell phone. ONe has the technology of getting the information right on his smartwatch. I honestly do not know the name of it. I just think it is a cool way to monitor and control his diabetes. 

    I am interested to see how far technology has come since he got his first insulin pump. As a healthcare professional myself, it is truly amazing how far things have come in 20years. What will the next 20 years bring us?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *