The Covid-19 pandemic spurred a shift towards remote monitoring solutions and demonstrated the potential usefulness of increased health data for physicians making treatment decisions. Researchers recently created the largest flexible processor to date. As this technology matures, low-cost flexible processors may enable new types of sensors, improving the smart hospital of the future.

The Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged the adoption of remote monitoring solutions, as patients were wary of in-person appointments due to Covid-19. Remote health sensors can send health data to physicians, allowing patients to continue to receive care while at home. However, one potential limitation of current remote health sensors is the need for a rigid form factor.

Current processors are highly efficient and can be made to run with low power or high performance. However, the crystalline silicon at the foundation of these processors is extremely rigid. In an exploration of flexible designs, researchers from ARM, a semiconductor design company, created a simplified version of a current rigid processor design on amorphous silicon with a plastic substrate layer.

While performance is expected to improve with future iterations, the flexible processor is currently orders of magnitude slower than modern rigid processors. Still, low-cost flexible processors may enable new use cases for health or health-related sensors. Sensors may be integrated into clothing, allowing physicians to track patients’ health through their hospital gowns. Sensors in bedding may be able to detect and signal when they should be changed. While flexible processors are likely still years away, they promise to enable a broad range of new remote patient monitoring use cases, allowing smart hospitals of the future to further improve patient care.