Your next phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pre­scrip­tion could be a pill that trans­mits impor­tant data, pos­si­bly sav­ing you from a severe health issue or help­ing you to main­tain a healthy lifestyle.

Wear­ables Are Everywhere

It’s fast becom­ing the stan­dard to keep track of your vital sta­tis­tics and gen­eral well-being through wear­able tech­nol­ogy. There are wrist bands, smart watches, glasses, and gad­gets galore that can track heart rate, mea­sure blood pres­sure, act as an EKG mon­i­tor, and improve every­thing from your dri­ving and fuel con­sump­tion to your golf, ten­nis, or base­ball swing. You can even trans­mit infor­ma­tion to your devices through an inge­nious ring by writ­ing instruc­tions in the air. Pretty impressive.

Data from a Pill

What you may not have heard about yet is ingestible tech­nol­ogy. Tiny pills, equipped with even tinier com­puter chips that col­lect and trans­mit data by trav­el­ing down your esoph­a­gus to explore and relay a wealth of infor­ma­tion back to your com­puter, your phone, or your physi­cian about what’s going on inside your body. The chips are minia­ture square mil­lime­ter sand­wiches of cop­per and mag­ne­sium, acti­vated when swal­lowed as stom­ach acids give the sig­nal. The chips trans­mit inter­nal data to a patch on the skin’s sur­face, which then broad­cast the data to health­care teams.

Tiny Track­ers

Smart pills are adept at a mul­ti­tude of tasks, includ­ing proof that you’ve taken med­ica­tion on time. They can also carry your entire med­ical his­tory in a sub­der­mal transpon­der, flow with your blood­stream to warn of impend­ing coro­nary issues, warn of infec­tion, and carry out dozens of other assignments.

Think of the ways auto­mo­biles now warn us of impend­ing prob­lems through the use of chips and sen­sors and trans­late that to wear­able health tech­nol­ogy. The field is on fire with star­tups, research, and ideas, but it is also chal­lenged by ques­tions about pri­vacy and side effects.

En Route to the Market

Inten­tions are good, over­all, but it is con­ceiv­able that some­one could end up with a chip in their body that they do not want but are unable to dis­pel. Or that some­one could hack into the data and use it for less than hon­or­able pur­poses. As you might expect, that is a con­cern gar­ner­ing sig­nif­i­cant, informed debate. Still, the tech­nol­ogy is heavy with ben­e­fits, and the research is ripe for approval, with test­ing already under­way. Expect the smart pill as a data source to go main­stream soon. It will help many of us mon­i­tor impor­tant health details in pre­ven­tive, main­te­nance, and heal­ing roles.