Mouth sensor keeps tabs on your sodium intake

Approximately 36 million people in the United States have high blood pressure and many could do with reducing their sodium intake. But how do you even monitor your intake accurately? Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed a flexible sensor that goes in your mouth for real-time sensing of how much salt is in those french fries you're munching. It then sends the data to your phone to alert you of your sodium intake. From IEEE Spectrum:

W. Hong Yeo, an assistant professor of micro and nano engineering who led the research team, says it would also be possible to stick the sensor directly to the tongue or the roof of the mouth, or to laminate it onto a tooth. The soft retainer they used in this experiment was just phase one. “For the first prototype device, we wanted to offer easy handling and cleaning capability via the integration with a soft retainer,” he said.

Yeo says the biggest challenge was making the entire electronic device soft, flexible, and comfortable enough to wear in the mouth. So the team designed a chip that uses stretchable circuits mounted on an ultrathin porous membrane.

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3D printed Wi-Fi devices without electronics

University of Washington researchers 3D printed mechanical sensors and switches from standard plastic filament that can send data to Wi-Fi devices without using any electronics. As the engineers explain in this video, the plastic devices either reflect or absorb the ambient Wi-Fi signals and that effect is translated into a signal of zero or one. From the Printed Wi-Fi research page:

Specifically, we introduce the first computational designs that 1) send data to commercial RF receivers including Wi-Fi, enabling 3D printed wireless sensors and input widgets, and 2) embed data within objects using magnetic fields and decode the data using magnetometers on commodity smartphones. To demonstrate the potential of our techniques, we design the first fully 3D printed wireless sensors including a weight scale, flow sensor and anemometer that can transmit sensor data. Furthermore, we 3D print eyeglass frames, armbands as well as artistic models with embedded magnetic data. Finally, we present various 3D printed application prototypes including buttons, smart sliders and physical knobs that wirelessly control music volume and lights as well as smart bottles that can sense liquid flow and send data to nearby RF devices, without batteries or electronics.

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Smart cities are as stupid as the people who make them

For 13 years, I've been writing about Adam Greenfield, one of the world's smartest critical thinkers on what we're calling "The Internet of Things" this decade -- but since the first glimmers of the idea of networked people, places and objects, Greenfield has been writing smart things about the subject, most recently in Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, a book that Verso will publish next week. Read the rest

Lawnmower triggers false Northern Lights alert

Lancaster University's Aurora Watch issued an alert on Tuesday that the Northern Lights would be clearly visible in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the alert was cancelled after the scientists determined that the data from one of their magnetometers was spurious. A surge in geomagnetic energy is indicative of auroras but this particular spike was likely caused by a lawnmower.

"We believe the interference was caused by University staff mowing the grass on a sit-on mower," Aurora Watch stated. "We’ll work with the facilities team to try and avoid an incident such as this occuring in the future!"

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Electronic temporary tattoo measures how drunk you are

University of California San Diego nanoengineers developed a flexible, wearable sensor that measures the blood alcohol level of its wearer and transmits the info to a mobile device. From UCSD News:

The device consists of a temporary tattoo—which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level—and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth.

The device could be integrated with a car’s alcohol ignition interlocks, or friends could use it to check up on each other before handing over the car keys, he added.

“When you’re out at a party or at a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking,” said Jayoung Kim, a materials science and engineering PhD student.

"Noninvasive Alcohol Monitoring Using a Wearable Tattoo-Based Iontophoretic-Biosensing System" (ACS Sensors)

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