Researchers from IBM described a wearable system that unveiled today; a fingernail sensor prototype that is designed to measure how far your fingernails bend and move throughout the day. It is a small sensor prototype that sits on a person’s fingernail to help monitor the effectiveness of drugs used to combat the symptoms of Parkinson’s and other diseases.

By gathering this data, changes can be monitored over time and potentially used to alert clinicians of health concerns.

It’s designed to capture everyday movement by people in their daily lives even if they are outside, in a car, or at home. – Jay Royyuru, VP of healthcare, IBM

This new monitoring prototype is ideal for elderly patients, who risk infection from alternative options, like skin-based sensors. It is not only effective on medication in Parkinson’s disease patients but also with people’s cardiovascular health, overall cognitive function in schizophrenics.

Since fingernails don’t bend all that much, the sensor had to be rather sensitive the researchers explained. This deformation is usually on the order of single digit microns and not visible to the naked eye. However, it can quickly be detected with strain gauge sensors. This prototype can no doubt help provide insights into disease progression or state of well-being, such as spikes in stress.

This is a research project and not a commercial technology hence, cannot be expected to be launched anytime soon. While there’s no guarantee on its launch, it definitely provides us with a hint at how the future of medicine may look like.

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