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Wi-Fi Babies: Is Electronic Skin the Answer to SIDS Prevention?

Tim Boyer's picture

The day my infant son was brought home was the day the most horrible thought any parent can conjure occurred to me—what if he stops breathing? Watching him lying there in his crib asleep; his little chest rising up and down scant millimeters with each breath powered by a pumping heart not much larger than a ping pong ball; wondering how the heck something so small can continue to keep running.

To a guy size means power. And if my infant son were an engine I would immediately want to outfit him with a four-barrel Holly carburetor, connect him to an engine monitor and tweak his fuel and air mixture until I was satisfied that his breathing had the purr of a souped-up Chevy Nova. Oh, and I would also do something about those fluid and gas leaks as well while at it.

New parent paranoia is something all parents go through. The unfortunate part, however, is when paranoia becomes a reality, and there is no reality more heart-wrenching than a family who has lost an infant to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Fortunately, this may change. In the August issue of Science, researchers announce the invention of an electronic skin that has limitless potential for monitoring vital signs via a thin patch as innocuous as a child’s rub-on tattoo.

Wi-Fi Skin

Materials Science researcher John Rogers and his colleagues at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have recently reported their invention of an electronic skin that can be applied to a patient to monitor heartbeats, muscle contractions, brain activity and voice. This “electronic skin” is a flexible latticework of electronic circuits sandwiched between sheets of polyester that sticks to human skin without the use of adhesives. It can be applied and removed easily and remain on the skin up to days at a time until the skin cells beneath the patch begin to naturally slough off.

The electronics of the skin includes sensors, antennas, light emitting diodes, and solar cells or magnetic inductive coils to power the skin. The circuits connecting the components are S-shaped filaments that allow the skin to be stretched without breaking the circuits. Also included is a wireless transmitter that can send data remotely to a computer for analysis by a physician.

Rogers states, “Our main focus from a research standpoint is on healthcare related applications because I think that's the most impactful class of use of this kind of device. So we're spending our time mostly in that arena, physiological status monitoring, human-machine interfaces, devices to assist with physical rehabilitation.”

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The significance of this research is that it opens a new world of possibilities for integrating man with machine. In a way it is similar to the invention of the transistor which replaced the bulky vacuum tubes of old electronics. Miniaturizing electronic components was an important advancement that made possible small electronic healthcare devices such as pacemakers. Among its possibilities, electronic skin has the potential to reduce the number of SIDS-related deaths.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
According to the National Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Syndrome/ Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS/SIDS) Resource Center, statistics from 2005 show that SIDS is the third leading cause of infant death and the first leading cause of infant death for infants 1 to 12 months of age. In 2005 there were 2,230 reported cases of SIDS in the U.S. with the U.S. being the country with the 2nd highest SIDS death rate.

The incidence of SIDS-related deaths has decreased significantly since 1990 when the health community began advocating parents of newborns to position their infants on their backs as opposed to their stomachs for sleeping. However, SIDS continues and the causes of SIDS appear to be multifactorial. Potential factors such as prenatal births, smoking or drug use during pregnancy, secondhand smoke exposure and being wrapped in excessive sleepwear or soft bedding may be to blame. An inborn physiological factor may be a culprit as well with the arcuate nucleus, a part of the brain that helps control breathing and awakening during sleep when blood-oxygen levels drop.

An electronic skin with sensors designed to monitor a sleeping infant as a prophylactic measure has the potential to decrease the incidence of SIDS even further through a monitoring/warning system linked directly to sleeping parents and/or a hospital. Furthermore, the skin may be designed to not only monitor, but apply a stimulus to a sleeping infant who has stopped breathing or whose blood-oxygen levels indicate an excess of carbon dioxide from rebreathing its own breaths due to poor sleep positioning and bulky bedding.

The point is, is that health care may be the ideal beta run for testing out this electronic skin technology and discovering what it can do for mankind. And what better application for applying a new generation in electronic technology than with a new generation of children.

As for my infant son—he’s a teenager now. I don’t watch him while he sleeps anymore, but now I can’t help but wonder how something so big can sleep so long. Maybe they’ll make a patch for that too.

Source: Science 12 August 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6044 pp. 830-831 DOI: 10.1126/science.1209094



This is absolute insanity! As evidence mounts that electromagnetic radiation is harmful to human health (see the recent World Health Organization announcement officially classifying it as a Class 2B Carcinogen), we should be reducing to the greatest extent possible our children's exposure to wireless radiation. Now they want to transform our newborn infants into what is essentially a WiFi transmitter?? This is an unethical, immoral, and absolutely reprehensible example of our society's total lack of regard for human life that is due, in large part, to the unrelenting influence of the Big Pharma/Medical Industrial Complex. But as with everything else that erodes our health, privacy & basic human rights, it is expertly marketed to play upon our biggest fears (like losing a child) so we will accept the advanced technology with open arms. Similar tactics are being used to convince parents to microchip their children (already happening right here in the U.S.) FCC safety standards are decades old, not biologically based, were not developed for chronic, cumulative exposure times, and are not applicable to current pulse-modulated technology. It is for this reason that many other countries are restricting/banning the use of cell phones, WiFi, and Smart Meters (radiofrequency utility meters). It has now become eerily acceptable that huge numbers of young people are dying from brain tumors caused by long term cell phone use and ADHD rates are skyrocketing due to the use of WiFi in schools. We are a better society than this, and we should be smarter than this. It is truly frightening that the majority of people have become unknowing guinea pigs in this horrible societal experiment gone very wrong. Have we learned nothing from Nazi Germany? Our insatiable desire for wireless convenience and high tech gadgets at the expense of our health (and that of the birds, bees, microorganisms, and the very planet that sustains us--all of which are being adversely affected by the exponential increase in manmade electromagnetic radiation) will be our ultimate downfall. We need to put the brakes on now--there is still time for the hundredth monkey to turn the tide. Please wake up! Do your own homework and help change the course mankind is on. Otherwise you can expect your children to inherit a world where they are nothing more than a Star Trek Borg, devoid of any semblance of humanity. Is this what you want for your children? It's not what I want for mine.
They make these things based on an industry's need to cling to an unfounded and outdated theory that only high intensity electromagnetic fields can affect biology. It has already been proven otherwise. And there is credible evidence that the young are the most vulnerable to the induced biological effects. Let's not start another disaster.