by Johanna Mischke

December 5, 2011

Interview with Nancy Dougherty – Mindfulness Pills

Nancy Dougherty is a hardware designer from Silicon Valley. Her work at Proteus Biomedical, Inc. offers a totally new perspective for Wearable Technologies. The project includes a pill with a circuitry inside that can be decoded by a patch that is worn on the torso. Besides the signal from the pill the patch can measure heart rate (via ECG), motion and activity (with an accelerometer), and temperature. Data is recorded 24/7, and can be sent to a smartphone via Bluetooth. But read more yourself:

1. Can you explain to our readers a bit about your innovative approach of wearing technology close to the body?

I think that making biometric sensors more unobtrusive is important to seeing them adopted more widely.  You never lose it, leave it at home, drop it, etc.  I used the fitbit now, and nothing is more frustrating than leaving it at home, and having that horrible feeling that I’m not getting *credit* for my steps.  It’s much more powerful to have all the data magically “there”- no need to press buttons to signal your actions, or remember to put it on when you wake up each morning.  It also bypasses the “how will I wear this?” question.  By taking all the user planning, effort, and willpower out of collecting the data, we can make applications for using that data much more effective.

2. What parameters can be measured by the pills and by the sensor patch? What are possible areas of application for the solution?

I have a quick explanation of the tech posted on my blog and a bit about our first product launch (and the directions in which it is headed) are here.

This system is about so much more than medication adherence- it allows people to view and share data that hasn’t been available in health care before, creating a whole new space for better patient outcomes. Beyond that, we are looking into different behaviour change applications we can create on top of the data, leveraging ideas from mindfulness, gamification, positive psychology, and more.

3. The patch can be worn for 7 days and is completely waterproof, the sensor on the pill passes through your system like food and is made from food ingredients. This is pretty amazing and we are wondering what else a forward thinker like you is imagining for the future of sensor technologies. Do you think that it is likely that implants will be used in the future for tracking and monitoring purposes?

I personally can’t wait until biometric sensors like these become an even more “invisible” component to consumers – unobtrusively collecting good data is the first step to creating applications to improve the health and happiness of society!

I’m also excited to see sensors be used to show how we interact with our environment (like GreenGoose).  This provides valuable behavioural data and adds unique awareness of and interaction with our surroundings.

4. What company/companies are behind this project development?

Proteus is working with a variety of different companies in several domains; a listing is here.

5. Do you have a favourite wearable technologies product? What technology still needs to be invented to be worn on or close to the body?

I can’t lie, I’m a little old school here. My favorite Wearable Technologies are wearable arts – anything that lights up!  The HeartSpark is a good fusion of that sort of idea with newer technology.