MIT Is Working On a Swallowable Vital Signs Tracker

The device could measure heart and breathing rate from inside your body.

swallowable tracker

MIT’s swallowable tracker. Photo via Albert Swiston/MIT Lincoln Library

Think your fitness tracker is accurate? MIT just raised the bar.

A team at MIT is developing a swallowable tracker that can measure heart and breathing rates using the sound waves produced by the heart and lungs. A release from MIT says the device, which aims to provide a more accurate and less obtrusive alternative to current wearables, could be used for fitness tracking, monitoring patients with chronic diseases, keeping track of troops in battle, and more.

The sensor, inspired by existing ingestible devices that can take photos or measure body temperature, is about the size of a pill or vitamin, and contains a tiny microphone and a system that parses out lung and heart sounds, then sends the data out to an external device.

In the statement, Albert Swiston, one of the researchers involved in the project, calls the device “an extremely tiny stethoscope that you can swallow,” and notes that, “using the same sensor, we can collect both your heart sounds and your lung sounds. That’s one of the advantages of our approach—we can use one sensor to get two pieces of information.”

The technology behind the capsule is still developing—it has so far only been tested in pigs—so don’t put one on your holiday wish list just yet. Still, MIT’s team says the technique has significant promise. In addition to vital signs tracking, they say, it could one day be used for diagnosing heart and respiratory problems, or facilitating targeted drug delivery for existing conditions.