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Surprising Science

Big Data is Coming to Your Bloodstream

The technological advance of biomedical sensors will soon move beyond counting calories and enter a stage where every conceivable piece of private data is shared between groups.

What’s the Latest Development?

The kinds of sensors that currently monitor your heart rate and measure the calories you have burned during exercise are advancing rapidly as companies race to create a new field of nano-scale, wearable medical sensors. The British company Proteus, for example, will soon begin a pilot program for a ‘Digital Health Feedback System’ that combines both wearable technologies and microchips the size of a sand grain that ride a pill right through you. “Powered by your stomach fluids, it emits a signal picked up by an external sensor, capturing vital data.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Companies and healthcare providers alike envision a brave new future of medicine where massive amounts of highly personal data are shared seamlessly across various digital platforms. “For those of you troubled by Facebook claiming the right to know whether you like cats when you sign up, this is probably a significantly bigger deal.” The legal and corporate distinctions that regulate the exchange of data were created before the development of digital technology, for a world “where we weren’t able to see so much of each other, or deduce one behavior by crunching the data from several other sources.”

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