Wearable patch shows the way forward for medical monitoring

The 1960s sci-fi TV series Star Trek was remarkable for its technological prescience. Apart from the communicator - enabling Captain Kirk to ask Mr Scott to 'beam me up' - the medical tricorder has entered the public's consciousness to the point where a $10million competition is in progress to develop a device which offers similar functionality.

Independently of that competition - the Tricorder X Prize - engineers at the University of California San Diego say they have developed a 'tricorder like' device which can measure heart rate and a particular chemical whose level provides an insight into physical effort.

The San Diego development is just one illustration of how flexible and wearable electronics might be used to monitor our health. As the technology develops, the devices could move from being reactive to enabling your physical parameters to be connected to a medical system that will alert you to potential problems.

Similar devices could also be used in assisted living applications - where older people can remain in their houses, supported by technology - and there are opportunities for innovative companies to bring such products to market.