“What we have developed is a very versatile smart chip that can process data, analyse patterns and spot the difference. It is about a hundred times more efficient than current processing chips on the market. It will lead to more compact medical wearable devices, such as portable ECG monitoring devices and neural implants, since we no longer need large batteries to power them.” So says Assistant Professor Arindam Basu who is on faculty at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The smart chip is more efficient because it works wirelessly, has a 95% accuracy rate when tested in laboratory animals, and transmits data using a negligible amount of power.
Other chips require a lot more power because they send a large amount of raw data through thousands of channels. With this new chip, raw data is first analyzed in nanoseconds right inside the neural implants, then distinguished between normal and abnormal patterns in the signals the body gives off to create a pre-programmed response to each type of signal, then compressed into small data packages, then wirelessly sent to a small electronic receiver outside of the body. The data was successfully processed in the chip to allow for 95% accuracy for brain signals to the hands and fingers in lab animals.
The scientists believe future uses for the chip would eliminate wires and other hassles that come with today’s neural implants for patients with Parkinson’s disease or who control their prosthetic limbs mentally. They also foresee the wireless smart chip’s huge applications for the Internet of Things in the near future. But for now the researchers are focused on using the chips for transmitting data in remote sensors that run on batteries, like those found in video cameras. They also want to team up with electronics companies to place the chips in smart home sensor systems.
Nevertheless, the next generation of neural implants is not too far away with this new smart chip. On its face, it sounds like a good idea to help people with health problems. But when one considers how technological advances always have mission creep when fallen man puts them to use, the implications are concerning. For example, how long would it take (once this chip is made for human use) for a corporation to create a receiver that monitors people’s brain signals with this chip and uses their behavioral scientists to evoke a specific response from an individual or group of people with such neural implants?
Source: Nanyang Technological University, New smart chip makes low-powered, wireless neural implants a possibility, ScienceDaily.com, February 11, 2016.