Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Contact lens could monitor health and provide information from smartphones

Steve Rogerson
February 16, 2016
A contact lens that monitors the wearer’s health and can transmit information directly from a smart device to the eye is the goal of researchers from the University of South Australia as it sets out to transform the common contact lens into the next generation of consumer electronics.
Scientists from the university’s Future Industries Institute (FII) have completed proof-of-concept research on a polymer thin-film coating that conducts electricity on a contact lens, with the potential to build miniature electrical circuits that are safe to be worn by a person. 
A researcher from the FII, associate professor Drew Evans, said the breakthrough technology could provide one of the safest methods to bring people and their smart devices closer together.
“Building on the technologies we pioneered in thin-film coatings for the development of the world’s first fully plastic car mirrors, we have been working on the development of conducting polymers with a UK partner that specialises in contact lenses,” said Evans. “We have always known that our film coating technologies had potential for many applications and now we have taken that a step further by proving that we can make biocompatible, conducting polymers at the nanoscale and grow them directly on a contact lens.”
The fluids in the eye provide markers of a person's health, so the goal now is to build electrical sensors on a contact lens from polymers to sense in real time a person's wellbeing.
“The next big leap is to develop complementary technologies to read the information transmitted by the conducting polymers,” he said, adding that this “exciting research” had brought personal, wearable, computer technologies one step closer.
“What is really significant is that the materials we are developing are not only safe but also have the potential for a range of personalised health monitoring applications that could make life simpler for people struggling with chronic health problems,” he said.