Skin patches take centre stage at the IDTechEx show

October 25, 2019 //By Julien Happich
Skin patches
Wearable technology devices seek to provide value in the augmentation of the wearer by design and function. From this perspective, electronic skin patches are a particularly interesting device type, anchoring the device to the skin in order for it to achieve a specific function.

Market research firm IDTechEx estimates that electronic skin patch products could generate over $20bn per year by 2029, from over $7.5bn generated in 2018. Whilst themes can be observed throughout the sector, many of the most successful products on the market are not necessarily known as "electronic skin patches", note the analysts.

In diabetes management, key products include continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices and insulin pumps deployed as so-called "patch-pumps". In cardiovascular monitoring, devices range from traditional ECG options and general inpatient monitoring or outpatient monitoring devices to specific products such as Holter monitors, event monitors, and other mobile cardiac telemetry devices (MCT, also known as "extended Holter"). Beyond these two largest sectors, electronic skin patch products include devices such as axillary temperature sensors, sweat sensors, motion sensors, biopotential (e.g. TENS, EMS) patches, and devices across many other sectors and product categories.

However, whilst the devices may differ in their final function, the innovation trends around these skin-worn devices remain relatively consistent throughout. One of the most common issues is increasing the potential wear time of the patch, which includes making them more comfortable, managing battery life and power consumption, and optimizing this for a specific application case.

An essential technology is the adhesives used to attach the device to the skin. These present a significant challenge to developers; adhesives need to be strong enough to secure the device and enable its function for as long as is needed but must also be easy to remove, not cause skin irritation and work for all skin types.

Similarly, there are challenges around other components in electronic skin patches. Innovation trends are moving towards devices that can be increasingly conformal to the skin, utilizing flexible electronics and processes such as screen printing. This involves the development of many new material and component types that are needed to enable the next generation of these products. These themes are a particular strength of the event, which has been the largest and most comprehensive conference on printed and flexible electronics in North America for the past decade.


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