Kodak Patents Swallowable RFID Chips

rfid_chip.jpgimage002.jpgRFID chips




he Eastman Kodak Company, with so much technological imaging expertise in Rochester but plummeting demand for photographic film, continues to diversify its R&D.  They have now filed a patent for a swallowable RFID chip.  The concept of a swallowable chip to monitor bodily functions is not new.  This technology was forst developed for NASA use to monitor vital signs of astronauts.  I used these first generation radio telemetry capsules for research on menopausal hot flahes when I was a faculty memeber at Yale Med.  It was a neat little device.  It looked like a regular tylenol capsule but had a magnet on the outside.  Once the magnet was removed the device was enabled and it continuously transmitted core body temperature to a receiving antenna and telemetry receiver via radio waves. 

Over the past years there has been considerable development of swallowable endoscopes (“pill-cam”) and related devices.  These capsules have mini cmos chips and LED lights and transmit photos of the GI track elimiating the need for alien butt probes.  You can read more about the next generation of these devices here and here including new nonvisual diagnostic abilities. 

Details of the Kodak Patent Filing: 

The tag, according to the description in the application, can be used to monitor internal “bodily events” in a patient, eliminating in some cases the need for surgery, x-rays or access to a medical facility. “It would be appealing to probe the living body without the effort, expense, inconvenience and risk of injury or infection involved with the above methods,” according to the application.

The application noted that it is already possible to embed RFID tags under a person’s skin, but such tags must be removed at some point. The Kodak tag could be ingested by patients, communicate detailed medical information to an RFID reader, and the eventually disintegrate, it noted. “When a pill is ingested, the antenna structure [on the tag in the pill] is destroyed over a period of time by the body,” the application said.

The patent filing suggests a number of potential uses for the new Kodak tag, including the tracking of how a person’s digestive track is absorbing medicine, or verifying of how a specific medicine is interacting with other drugs in one’s body. The RFID tag could also track the progress of a pill as its digested by a patient, using readers located on different parts of a person’s body to follow the pill. The technology could also be designed to both automatically dispense a drug to a patient, and ensure that it had in fact been taken, the filing said.

 This is all in line with my predictions of the future transformation of surgery.   

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