Body Electric: Implanted Machines Are Coming

Andreessen Horowitz

Photo: x-ray delta one Photo: x-ray delta one

The pace of electronics miniaturization has been relentless. Today’s palm-sized smartphones outrun the fastest supercomputers of only a couple decades ago. Low-powered computers equipped with an array of finely tuned sensors are already being incorporated into real-world objects that can communicate autonomously, creating an “Internet of Things” that promises to bring revolutionary opportunities—and challenges—for every aspect of society and industry. The next phase of miniaturization could be even more transformational; embedding computational technology directly onto and into our bodies.

Redwood City, California-based Proteus Digital Health is an early entrant in the area of so-called bioelectronics. Proteus sells an FDA-approved ingestible sensors no larger than a poppy seed, which allows caregivers to know when and whether patients have properly taken their medications. Proteus’s tiny chip communicates via the body’s own tissues with a wearable sensor on the skin that in turn monitors and transmits…

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