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Ingestible Computers

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Jun 28th, 2013

In one of my classes this past fall, one of my professors incorporated information about new ways to communicate information wirelessly. Although I didn’t believe him 100 percent at first, he was serious when he explained that within my generation’s lifetime, we’d be able to control things with our mind because we’d be micro-chip programmed. And, I guess he’s currently not far off base.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved its first “digital pill” made by Proteus Digital Health in 2012. Currently, digital capsules are pills that have a miniature microchip inside that is used to monitor a patient’s health. The capsules made by Proteus and other companies have the ability to monitor body temperature, tell whether an individual has taken their medications, or report how a person is responding to their medications. All of the data is tested and sent through the microchip to another device, such as a cell phone with the appropriate application, for analysis.

Another pill, the CorTemp Ingestible Core Body Temperature Sensor made by HQ Inc., is most popular in monitoring temperatures in the professional fields of astronauts, firefighters, and even football players. But how do the pills operate within the body?

The microchip pill made by Proteus Digital Health has no need to utilize a battery for a power source. Because the chip contains very minimal amounts of magnesium and copper, a reaction within stomach acids helps the chip to generate its own power source. However, the CorTemp drug does contain a small battery for the pill’s device.

Each pill usually lasts about 24 hours before it moves through the human digestive cycle, meaning a person would have to take one daily. Just like any innovative technology, it comes with its large price tag, some reporting each pill at a cost of $46. That is just less than $17,000 per year if you took them year round.

Technological developments like these are expected to be utilized much more frequently going ahead as they become more advanced and feature more capabilities. They most likely will even encroach further than just the medical field’s technology—perhaps in banking, shopping, driving, and even general day to day tasks. Just think, all from ingesting a small pill with huge capabilities!

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