Open wide: Kodak looks to patent edible RFID

It wants to devise a tool to treat patients without surgery, x-rays

Eastman Kodak Co. has come up with an idea that some may find difficult to swallow--an edible radio frequency identification (RFID) tag.

The venerable imaging product manufacturer last month quietly filed an application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark office for a patent on an RFID tag that can be safely ingested.

A spokesman for Eastman Kodak declined today to discuss the tag, and noted that the company has no specific plans yet for the technology.

The tag, according to the description in the application, can be used to monitor internal "bodily events" in a patient, eliminating in some cases the need for surgery, x-rays or access to a medical facility. "It would be appealing to probe the living body without the effort, expense, inconvenience and risk of injury or infection involved with the above methods," according to the application.

The application noted that it is already possible to embed RFID tags under a person's skin, but such tags must be removed at some point. The Kodak tag could be ingested by patients, communicate detailed medical information to an RFID reader, and the eventually disintegrate, it noted. "When a pill is ingested, the antenna structure [on the tag in the pill] is destroyed over a period of time by the body," the application said.

The patent filing suggests a number of potential uses for the new Kodak tag, including the tracking of how a person's digestive track is absorbing medicine, or verifying of how a specific medicine is interacting with other drugs in one's body. The RFID tag could also track the progress of a pill as its digested by a patient, using readers located on different parts of a person's body to follow the pill. The technology could also be designed to both automatically dispense a drug to a patient, and ensure that it had in fact been taken, the filing said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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