Recently, the Robolution team investigated different hydration and bio monitors to learn how they worked and whether they could be applied to the problem of dehydration.
A dehydration pedometer is a device that predicts how much water is in your body by analyzing information such as outdoor temperature, gender and height. The pedometer can be clipped to your clothing. A con to this device is that it might not be too accurate, since it is only a prediction.
There is a Sweat Patch that can be used to monitor dehydration. After applying the sweat patch to the skin and wearing it for a few hours while exercising, the patch is then sent to a lab to determine whether you were dehydrated. While this is an interesting idea, having to wait 24 hours for results is a disadvantage.
We read about a hydration management system that uses a multi-step process to measure water levels in the body. First, the person spits into a small tube. Next, the tube is inserted into a small hole in the circuit board. After that, the circuit board is placed into a machine that contains an absorbent material. Once the material absorbs the saliva and expands, it triggers a micro- lever. Finally, the results are sent to a screen for the person to read. While the quick read-out is an advantage, this process is complicated in that there are many parts to keep track of, and the person may not have a lot of saliva to continuously spit into the tubes.
Scientists are also working on a sweat sodium – sensitive sensor. The sensor is attached directly to the skin and uses an ionic dye that changes color in the presence of sodium. Used primarily for athletes, information is sent wirelessly to a coach to indicate the sodium content of the sweat and therefore the athlete’s hydration level.
Two applications currently being developed to measure glucose levels in diabetic patients may be applicable to measuring hydration. Instead of the traditional finger-prick method, transdermal patches can be worn on the skin to measure potassium and glucose levels. The information can be sent wirelessly to a smartphone. The advantages of these transdermal patches are that they are painless, inexpensive and provide continuous monitoring.
The Robolution team even learned about a sensor that can be used on cows. A micro-thin chip can be attached to a tooth to measure bacteria levels in saliva samples. Currently only a prototype, in the future this may give a new meaning to “wisdom teeth”!