Ingestible Sensor Serves as Prescription Drug Monitor
Proteus Digital Health's digital medical system includes an ingestible sensor that works with fluid in the stomach to connect with a patch worn on the skin to record the time the patient takes medication. That information is sent to a mobile application that connects to an Internet database to save the information, so patients can interact with caregivers and keep track of medicines they must take regularly. (Source: Proteus Digital Health)
Your Pollyanna viewpoint is precisely what I am lampooning.
So, if the FDA mandates the technology has to go into every pill, how long do you think it will be before the police insist they need the ability to access the information? Do you want a screener at the airport asking you why you're taking a particular medication, with a couple of business associates listening in? Where does it stop? Have you ever read 'The Patriot Act'?
It's fine to look for the good in people. The jaw-dropping leap to assuming all people are good surprises me, particularly in a forum where understanding of the subject matter requires a solid background in logic.
@bobjengr: Your thoughts on this are similar to my own. When my mother-in-law was still alive, we made regular trips to fill her pillbox. There would rarely be a time that she took all of her medication and then she would argue how she had. "I ran my finger around there and it was empty." She could never explain how the pills got back in the box, but that did not change her assertions that she had taken them all. On second thought, she would have just claimed the sensor was in error and it would add nothing.
My solution is to make one of the pills a water pill. Trust me, you know when you have taken that devil and I do not need an external device to alert me.
Your objections are precisely the point I'm lampooning ... being that people often swing to the extreme Fear of Big Brother (your Orwell reference). For me, I view it as just another technology advancement, and I'm not intimidated by any theoretical ramifications. Guess I'm just naïve that way. I do tend to look for the "Good" in people.
A pillbox that takes full advantage of this new tech, would not need to be 'loaded' in the prescription schedule like you have become used to, but can instead be bulk loaded. It would receive the data stream and automatically subtract from the daily schedule. Then display which pills are to be taken next. Or maybe even just have only one lever to release pills and the box decides which ones to drop next with an alarm for when to do so.
The article does not say that the signal is bio-electrochemical. The power source for the so called 'sensor' is bio-chemical. The article does not explain how the data gets transmitted, but I would assume the simplest approach is to use an RF transmission. In that case, how do you prevent a very high gain antenna from intercepting the signal? But, seeing as the article doesn't say that RF is used, maybe they did something more interesting like transmit with static conduction to the patch. The patch itself could be built cheaply, to just retransmit the data as is, but the patch could also be using some form of encryption. The hacker scene has demonstrated years ago how to intercept bluetooth connections to pull funny pranks on people who think they are still talking to someone on their phone. No major credit card scams I know of yet have come of it. The police use a man-in-the-middle attack that everyone knows about yet still haven't quite figured out well. Just setup a false 'cell tower' near your target. The target device will automatically switch to the stronger signal which is the core fundamental reason why all cell phones work so flawlessly. No matter who made the phone or what model it is, it will always connect to the strongest signal. Then you retransmit that to the real cell tower, so that the target never has a clue. You get all the data. Voice, text, everything except root access to the phone. So this doesnt necessarily enable remotely turning on the phone's microphone while leaving the phone 'off'. But it certainly can allow randomely monitoring a crown for any telltale datastream for this new kind of pill. Unless of course, you were to take security very seriously. In which case there will not be any 'telltale' datastream!
I always keep thinking, whenever I hear that same meme: 'I have nothing to hide because I never do anything' - what about this instead: 'You have nothing to hide but your privacy'. Combined with the fact that anyone can be found guilty of anything simply by taking anything they say out of context in just the right way. Or simply just taking the fact that they made a statement, to imply that they said something they didn't mean.
This will not work well for monitoring trafficking because the pill as described here only functions when consumed. Unless everyone is required to wear a patch at all times in order to catch the signal when the wrong person takes a pill. You can attempt to monitor for unused pills by attempting to interpolate ghost data, but there will always be plenty of legitimate reasons for why pills go unused. Lost, uneeded, misplaced, ect. So what kind of resources will be needed to run down every false alarm? Plus to even think of using this as a trafficking monitor, will require every manufacturer of a given kind of medication to use this sensor. Of course that would be great business for this company developing it! But the sudden increase in costs will be problematic at best. A much better way to monitor drug trafficking is to use a type of signal that works at all times even while still in the original prescription container, which can not be easily removed from the drug itself. Something that is designed around an active scanner which can be deployed by anyone in the field to scan at random for any out of place signal.
What frequency does the sensor use to transmit to the patch? Does the sensor repeat it's transmission until it fails? Does the signal strength drop off noticeably if the patch is not in close contact with the skin? Can an external receiver with a high gain antenna be used instead? - such as in a hospital room? Couldn't the patch be designed to use wifi when possible, to connect directly to a website without racking up data fees on a mobile plan? And how about coming up with a companion product, a pill box that can receive the data and display the current status? How does the patch get powered? Does the patch use an internal rechargeable battery? User replaceable battery? What kind of data security is in place to make sure nobody can tamper with the user profile? - could be a good market for selling pills if you can 'convince' your patch that you actually swallowed the pill when in fact the signal was spoofed. So some explanation of why it can't be spoofed would be nice. Like maybe a random number of sufficient number of bytes to ensure some lifespan of useable numbers without needing to repeat any. And will taking the pill apart to seperate the transmitter from the drug be easy, or is thewre some design focus on making the sensor purposely disintegrate with that kind of tampering? Privacy issues are of course, going to be a concern to a lot of people. I doubt the FDA will require this technology when all they do is say if it can be used. But Hitachi's RFID powder is a more serious concern, because it can continue sending data long after ingestion. This pill sounds like it will cease functioning when the electrodes are consumed. So a police state scenario might be impractical based on this pill. That RFID powder on the other hand....