Is the World Ready for Wi-Fi Contact Lenses?

They'll Be Here Before You Know It

Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a way to enable Wi-Fi in items that have no power, including contact lenses.  How is this possible?


It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Disposable

Earlier this year, Samsung had serious problems with its Galaxy Note 7 smart phones.  Namely, they were prone to bursting into flames.  After shipping replacements that were also defective, Samsung announced they would stop making the phones altogether.  The risk of fire was just too great.

The FAA took notice, and banned the phones from all flights.  Bringing one of these phones anywhere near an aircraft was outlawed.  They were serious.  One day at the airport I heard an announcement that went something like this:

“If you have a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, you may not carry it aboard the aircraft in your hands or your luggage.  You may not have this phone in your checked baggage.  It is illegal for you to have this phone in the airport.  If you have of one of these phones, your only choice is to throw it in the trash.”

What If We Didn’t Need the Batteries?

After the Samsung problems, my family and I discussed the potential disadvantage of smart contact lenses.  What if their batteries caught on fire while in the eyes?  It was an unpleasant thought.

A recent report by the University of Washington may hold the answer.  Researchers there have announced a new technology that allows ordinary objects, even disposable ones, to have Wi-Fi without battery power.

Here are some details:

  • Recycling: Ordinary objects such as contact lenses and credit cards can “recycle” BlueTooth signals already in the air and turn them into Wi-Fi signals.
  • Connecting: The Wi-Fi signal can then be sent to a smart phone and displayed on the screen.
  • Helping: Early applications include contact lenses that can measure blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, sending alerts to the phone.
  • Conserving: Researchers claim the technology uses 10,000 times less power than conventional devices.
  • Safety: Without the need for a battery, smart contact lenses will be safer.   And brain implants or pacemakers can last much longer.
  • What was that word again?  The concept is called interscatter communication, where a powerless device (such as a contact lens) will backscatter, or recycle, BlueTooth signals.  These signals from smart phones and watches are converted to Wi-Fi signals and sent to other smart phones, watches, and even laptops.

This year we have seen major strides in medicine.  Backscatter technology also promises to bring us exciting advances in the next few years.  Stick around – when the new contact lenses hit the market, I’ll let you know how they work for patients at LaFollette Eye Clinic.

Until then, check out this video for more about how it works:

Question: Would you wear Wi-Fi enabled contact lenses?  Why or why not?  Please answer in the comments below.


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