Transforming Everyday Life With Electronic Skin Patches

Andy Ko
Transforming Everyday Life With Electronic Skin Patches
Electronic skin patches have made remarkable progress in the field of healthcare. These wearable electronic devices feature adhesive pads designed to be worn directly on the skin, enabling convenient and non-invasive monitoring of vital signs and biomarkers. In the field of cardiac monitoring, patients can wear a patch that records their electrocardiogram continuously for multiple days with the Holter monitor or a Mobile Cardiac Telemetry device. For diabetic patients, glucose monitoring and delivery have become almost entirely automated with the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and patch pump. The combined value of cardiac and diabetes applications is estimated to be worth US$13.2 billion, according to IDTechEx in their recent report "Electronic Skin Patches 2023-2033".
However, outside their success in healthcare, electronic skin patches have yet to fully realize their potential to improve daily life, including athletic capabilities, personal well-being, and worker safety. Their direct skin contact design makes them ideal for detecting analytes in sweat, as well as other biometric markers such as temperature. In the report, IDTechEx investigates the technologies and applications of electronic skin patches and forecasts that the total market will grow from US$14 billion in 2023 to US$27 billion by 2033. This article delves into the exciting potential of electronic skin patches in shaping everyday life.
Athletes have long looked towards wearable technologies to augment and improve performance in sports. Beyond heart rate monitoring chest straps and smartwatches, endurance athletes are exploring the use of CGMs. By continuously monitoring glucose levels, athletes can better manage their energy and optimize their performance and training to gain a competitive edge. Skin patches with motion-sensing capabilities also offer potential benefits in sports, as they can provide precise parameters to aid in athlete training and performance analysis. For contact sports, such as American football, electronic skin patches with inertia measurement units can be used to assess the risk of traumatic brain injury, an issue that has gained increasing attention in recent years. However, competition from other form factors, for instance, smart mouthguards and optical motion capture systems that don't encumber the athlete, limit the adoption of electronic skin patches for contact sports. As electronic skin patches continue to evolve in the sports industry, they must identify their unique value proposition where their form factor outperforms other options, such as smartwatches.
Electronic skin patches are also a form factor being explored by companies operating within the fertility tech sector. Effective family planning critically involves ovulation monitoring. To date, there are several methods for ovulation tracking, with the most mature and common form being the dipstick for hormone measurements. However, there is a range of other indicators of ovulation that can be used to track fertility, and one such indicator is basal body temperature (BBT). After ovulation, BBT typically rises between 0.2 and 0.5 degrees Celsius. Compared to traditional hormone dipsticks or manual temperature readings, the skin patch form factor offers a non-invasive and continuous means of monitoring BBT by attaching a patch under the armpit. Skin patch temperature monitors are a recent addition to the range of ovulation tracking methods, and their wireless communication capabilities allow for more data to be transmitted, which can be combined with digital tracking software to improve monitoring accuracy. In their report, IDTechEx discusses the applications of temperature monitoring skin patches across fertility and healthcare.
Finally, the skin patch form factor has a unique advantage in its ability to collect sweat directly from the skin. Electronic skin patches designed for sweat monitoring have the potential to continuously and non-invasively measure various biochemical markers for everyday health and well-being. These patches can continuously monitor parameters such as body temperature, hydration levels, and stress to provide real-time feedback that helps consumers make informed decisions about daily activities. A main player in this space, Epicore, partnered with PepsiCo's Gatorade to launch the Gx sweat patch which helps the athlete measure their hydration rate based on their sweat rate. While initially targeting the sports market, sweat electronic skin patches recently found a new application in the workplace, particularly in labor-intensive occupations such as oil and gas, construction, and manufacturing. By providing real-time feedback hydration, these patches can help prevent heat injuries, similar to the use of radiation monitoring badges in high-dose occupational environments. IDTechEx explores the value, market, and outlook of sweat sensing in the report "Electronic Skin Patches 2023-2033".
As it stands, electronic skin patches have found great success in healthcare applications such as cardiac rhythm and blood glucose monitoring, while the consumer market for electronic skin patches has been smaller and challenging to navigate. Nonetheless, skin patches hold potential for several applications, from improving fertility tracking to preventing workplace heat injuries. Overall, the consumer market for electronic skin patches is expected to grow, and in their report "Electronic Skin Patches 2023-2033", IDTechEx predicts that temperature sensing will be the fastest growing area, with a CAGR of 26.5%.
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