The technology has the potential to have wide ranging impact. Air Force Research Labs at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (AFRL) is a major early customer, and for this technology was an early stage collaborator and co-inventor with Heikenfeld. Eccrine Systems recently won a nearly $4 million contract from AFRL, tasking the startup—in part collaboration with UC—with developing a next generation, non-invasive sensing system for the continuous monitoring of specific molecular biomarkers in human sweat.
The US Air Force plans to use Heikenfeld’s wearable technology to monitor ground troops’ and pilots’ well-being. Joshua Hagen, a civilian chemist and engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, explains, “Overexertion is a big thing in the military. Our men and women train very hard in some harsh environments. Hydration and heat stresses are huge for us right now. This analysis could mean preventing dehydration among infantry, an area of intense focus for all service branches.”
In addition to this contract, Heikenfeld and Eccrine are close to producing advanced wearables that act as mini-laboratories on your arm and other skin locations. As featured by the Washington Post in Thomas Heath’s “Your sweat could tell you when to make a baby—and more,” Robert Beech, co-founder and CEO of Eccrine, described, “The goal is not to have to stick needles and catheters into people. In the context of daily life, work, sleep, play, the goal is to have a window into the current physiological status of the wearer… What blood results are for invasive medicine using needles, sweat has to be for noninvasive to get and measure cholesterol, cortisol, ovulation monitoring, fertility, and reproductive health. It could be used to determine electrolyte loss, which can be used for cardiac patients.”