I find it so interesting how small these type of components can actually get, but you're right that it's a bit pricey at the moment. Still, I think it would have some really valuable usages, especially for medical devices. The price surely will eventually come down, no?
That's a good thing, Chuck, even though both you and TJ point out that sometimes the cost is worth it. I know personally I will pay a little extra for something because I do believe you get what you pay for. Health is one place where skimping wouldn't be such a great option.
@Elizabath: Indeed there are certain things which should consider as high priority than the cost. Health industry is one example for it. Quality plays a major role in these areas / industries and it should be focused in a much higher manner. So in such scenarios cost factor becomes secondary.
The Medical Device industry is an odd market place. The volume for products is not really that high, and if you have a unique device you can pretty much charge what ever you want, and company's do (sorry patients).
One of the strangest aspects to the industry is the reuse of disposable devices, like tubing sets. It's not that big of an issue in large, industrial nations, but in smaller countries tubing sets for various procedures are sometimes reused. Devices now try to track the tubing sets to make certain that they are not used more than once. As the tubing sets become more expensive, because of the electronics to prevent reuse, you then start to see bootleg tubing sets of dubious quality. Certainly worse than getting a bootleg Carolina Herrara bag.
Right now, an ingestible enoscope is big -- a pill measuring 25 mm long and 10 mm in diameter. I'd have to be pretty sick to agree to swallow a pill that large. That's why, as TJ points out, there will be applications for this technology before the cost comes down.
On the issue of cost, MEMS fabrication methods are always that high (and even higher) at inception, but will fall fast based on the huge volume potential. I can easily envision this at $1 in the very near future. But I see a possible drawback in the intended application. Reed switches are by nature, 'vicinity' switches. They are activated when magnetic field comes close to them. Once swallowed, it is going to get 'out-of-vicinity' of a passing magnet. I suppose if the design-intent is to swallow a switch (within whatever host device) and then undergo a powerful MRI, I could see the switch activating. But a more conventional handheld magnetic actuator, such as a pace-maker programmer for example, would have to output a substantially higher magnetic field than is presently achieved to activate the switch, assuming its resident within the bowels of the digestive tract. That's pretty deep.
Elizabeth, sometimes the high cost is worth it. Using the example Charles stated in the article, imagine your doctor told you you needed the ingestible endoscope procedure and your doctor posed two choices:
The regular ingestible endoscope at one price (and its horse-pill size), and a new one that is 20% more expensive but the size of a regular Tylenol capsule.
The higher cost might very well be worth it when choking down a monster pill of an endoscope.
A point well illustrated, TJ, and I think you're right here. Sometimes it is worth it to pay a little extra for convenience and, in this case, comfort and well-being, especially when health is concerned.
Very true elizebath I also do agree with you on this. It's worth paying a premium price if the product is really a good rather than taking a risk with a low price, specially when it comes to an health care product.
True Elizebeth its seems to be that the company is practicing marketskiming pricing at the introductory level.
Anyway, when it comes to medical devices its still in the affordable level by the individuals.
Yes, a2, I think that the applications mentioned here are appropriate due to necessity. They are definitely high-end, and most applications don't call for a reed switch that costs several dollars. As the price goes down, though, the number of applications will rise.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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