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Georgia Tech Researchers Create an RFID-Sensor Medical Patch

The patch's active UHF tag contains a thin-film battery as well as circuitry printed on an organic substrate, so that it can be worn as a small bandage or sewn into a hospital gown.
By Beth Bacheldor
"The hopping extends the range," Yang explains. The patch is designed to hop the information to any nearby tags. The number of patches through which hopping can occur is unlimited, though the researches have thus far tested hopping only in up to four patches. Without hopping, he says, one patch has a read range of 50 to 200 feet, depending on the environment's complexity.

Readers can be hung on a wall or embedded in a ceiling, Yang says, and be connected directly to the Internet. The system uses triangulation to pinpoint a patch's location to within a radius of 10 meters (33 feet). Employing Web-based software developed by the researchers, a computer can display a patch's location via Google Earth.

The patch is powered by a thin-film battery. Initially, Yang says, the team tested the patch using a 3-volt Lithium-ion coin cell, but the thin-film batteries have a lower profile and are easier to integrate. At present, he notes, a patch's battery will last for only about one or two months because the RFID tag is designed to automatically emit its ID and temperature data periodically, every few minutes. In order to increase the battery life, however, the team is working to develop a reader that can awaken a dormant RFID tag at defined intervals, then direct that tag to transmit the information. "This would reduce a lot of data redundancy," Yang says, "and extend the life of the battery, possibly up to a year."

To protect any intellectual property (IP) related to the patch, the research team has submitted an "invention disclosure" to the Georgia Tech Research Corp.'s Office of Technology Licensing, which works to protect Georgia Tech's IP and ensure that those involved in the innovation process remain in compliance with IRS rules, as well as with regulations involving such issues as export controls and conflicts of interest. The Office of Technology Licensing also manages the licensing of technologies and any royalties that may be produced by such a license.

According to Yang, the team has already met with several companies—which he is not at liberty to name at this time—that have expressed interest in partnering to develop commercial applications. One firm, in fact, is interested in working with the researchers to create a patch that operates with ECG sensors.

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