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Researchers develop stamp-sized ultrasound sticker
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MIT engineers designed an adhesive patch that produces ultrasound images of the body. The stamp-sized device sticks to skin and can provide continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs for 48 hours. (Photo: Felice Frankel)

Scientists at the MIT have developed an adhesive ultrasound patch that is the size of a postage stamp. Patients will be able to go about their daily lives while the wearable patch scans their internal organs, blood vessels or digestive system.

Currently, ultrasound imaging requires large machines that look like desktop computers and can only provide snapshots of a patient’s health. In contrast, the small patch works for 48 hours in order to provide doctors with more detailed information.

The new device benefits from recent advances in miniaturization. In this context, it can be seen as part of a wider trend towards monitoring that can be used for both hospital inpatient supervision as well as part of outpatient care.

For instance, electronic thin patches are being used to help manage diabetes or applied to the skin in order to continually monitor glucose levels and, in some cases, can pump insulin into the bloodstream.

Role of standards

In March 2017, the IEC set up Technical Committee 124 (TC 124) with the aim of providing standards in the field of wearable electronic devices and technologies which includes materials and devices that are patchable, implantable, ingestible as well as those made from electronic textile materials.

According to Jae Yeong Park, Secretary to IEC TC 124, “The business environment of wearable technologies is rapidly expanding on a global basis, and we see the emergence of new markets and applications. Already, more than four thousand companies, including all major electronics multinationals, are developing wearable electronic devices and technologies for the global market.”

The standardization of wearable technologies is still in its early phases. However, according to Park, “There is a common agreement that only international standardization can reduce the cost and effort for early industrialization and provide effective guidelines towards stabilization and expansion of the market.”

Recent publications

In 2021, IEC TC 124 issued its first publications consisting of three international standards and one technical report. IEC 63203-101-1 provides definitions to the vocabulary frequently used in relation to wearable technologies thus ensuring a common basis for the discussion of key concepts while IEC 63203-201-3 and IEC 63203-204-1, provide test methods related to e-textiles.

E-textiles are well suited to monitor biological signals such as respiratory rates and cardiac signals. Alongside the e-textiles, a detachable electronic device needs to be connected in order to measure the information from the e-textile. Currently, no standardized connection interface exists between the electronic device and the e-textile although the conductive snap fasteners are the most commonly used. With IEC TR 63203-250-1, IEC TC 124 has provided a review of conductive snap fastener connectors and provides guidance for future standardization work regarding e-textile connectors.

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