The Digestible History of Ingestible Trackers


Nowadays, losing something you own isn’t much of a hassle thanks to the wonder that is GPS. Before, we’d often resort to moving furniture around or even pondering philosophically on questions such as “If I were my car keys, were would I hide?” Just to get to the bottom of things, we’d exert so much effort that fortunately we don’t have to anymore. This is because GPS has made it easier for all of us.

The usage of GPS (aka global positioning system) was not always this widespread. It was mainly used by for military purposes and it did not reach the public until the late 1980s. Simply put, it gives you an accurate location and time of what it is you want to pinpoint, all thanks to satellites stationed all over the world. Our smartphones, among other devices, have become their own GPS receivers and it is now easier than ever to track things that we need to track. Today, GPS trackers are portable, lightweight, and some can even be attached to your car’s dashboard or your fitness cycle. So what may end up as the natural progression of GPS trackers of this nature? How about one as small as a pill – and one you ingest like a pill, too?

We’re still quite far from ingestible trackers that work like a charm. However, that’s not to say people haven’t been hard at work trying to make it a reality. Over in Germany back in 2009, a company named Voss and Mauser tried their hand at bringing this new technology to life. However, a look at their website today shows nothing but an empty page (save for copyright details) which means it’s safe to assume it was a failure. Meanwhile, the technology they sought to use for the trackers which came from Lightning GPS, was actually used for car dashboards. Lightning GPS is still active today, however these days they are more focused on GPS tracking for commercial purpises.

Fast forward to 2018 and we witnessed the concept that was “ReMix”. This was the brainchild of one Dina Katabi in collaboration with researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. All the GPS trackers would need is low-power wireless signals and it would be put to good use. For now, these trackers are used to monitor the direction and movement of tumors in the body, thus having a more medical-themed purpose. It would be interesting to see if we could see a tracker such as this for public use in the future – all the while, it could be terrifying.

Ingestible GPS trackers that are as easy to use as an AirTag opens up cans of worms in the field of ethics that the world may not be ready to deal with yet. Remember when the usage Google Glass’ camera could be an invasion of privacy? It’s this ethical debate that partly caused the Glass to sink and never resurface again. Ingestible trackers feel like they’re ready for the world, but the world may not be ready for these trackers themselves. For now, we’re better off tracking objects – not people.

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