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Technology is playing a larger role in health care every day, but what if the pills themselves were smart, with embedded chips that work in conjunction with a smartphone app? That’s exactly what software engineer Jesse Johnston is working on in his role as a software engineer at Seattle-based Stratos Product Development.

Meet our new Geek of the Week, and continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Jesse Johnston in his workspace at Stratos Product Development.

What do you do, and why do you do it? I work as a software engineer at Stratos Product Development, writing embedded software for medical devices. Oftentimes we are developing products based on the most cutting edge medical research. I’ve worked on everything from patient-controlled drug delivery systems to blood analyzers. It’s really gratifying to work on products that will have a direct, positive impact on people’s lives.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Mobile technology is giving patients more information and control over their personal health care and is going to dramatically change the industry and a patient’s ability to participate in their own care. For example, the latest project I’ve been working on is a system that allows a patient to track if and when they are taking their medication as well as their biological data. The system includes a tiny chip embedded in a pill that the patient takes. A patch worn on the body detects when the pills are taken, and a smartphone app presents the data to the patient, caregiver and physician. Technology like this puts a patients’ well-being in their own (and their caregivers’) hands, giving them freedom and quality of life that we only dreamed of before. It’s fun to work on technology that even gets Steven Colbert’s attention!

Where do you find your inspiration? I find inspiration outside of work. I think it’s important to find ways to clear your head, like going for a bike ride or reading a good book. It’s those times when I find solutions to difficult problems I am facing.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? I would definitely have to say my smart phone. I use it to check email, stream music, watch videos, play games, surf the web, check the weather, get directions, and occasionally make phone calls. I would have trouble getting by without it.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? The office space is full of cubicles with low walls and surrounded by windows. Our building is one block up for the piers, so we have a great view of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle. It’s refreshing to work in such an open space and to have so much natural light.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Although it’s important to plan, you have to be ready for whatever life throws at you. Whether it’s a requirement change on your product at work or your newborn waking you up at 4am at home, all you can do is take a deep breath and deal with it.

Geek of the Week is a regular feature profiling the characters of the Pacific Northwest technology community. See the Geek of the Week archive for more.

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Mac, Windows or Linux? If I had to choose one I’d probably go with Mac, although I use all three.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Have you seen “The Best of Both Worlds?” Picard wins hands down.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? A time machine sounds fun, but using it would probably create some sort of paradox. A Cloak of Invisibility would be neat, but using it seems deceptive and probably immoral. Therefore, I’ll go with Transporter. Being able to visit my family in the Midwest without having to fly would be nice.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … To be honest, I don’t have a million dollar startup idea. As a gamer, I’ve always thought that developing a mobile game would be fun, but it also seems like a challenging marketplace.

I once waited in line for … Back in college, I waited in line for the midnight release of Halo 2. My friends and I had spent a lot of time playing 2v2 Capture the flag in Halo and we couldn’t wait for the sequel to come out.

Your role models: I think Alan Turing is a role model for all computers scientists. Turing not only worked on early concepts in computing and Artificial intelligence, he also helped crack the German Enigma code during World War II.

Greatest Game in History If I have to choose only one, I think I’d go with Starcraft. I was never very skilled at playing it online, but I must have played through the single player campaign at least half a dozen times. I still remember being blown away when Kerrigan popped out of that chrysalis.

Best Gadget Ever: I think the best gadget ever has yet to arrive. With the speed at which technology changes, I look forward to the gadgets we’ll have a few years down the road. The iPhone is just over 5 years old. What are we going to have 5 years from now?

First Computer: The first computer I ever owned was a Gateway desktop that I purchased when I went to college. I spent a lot of hours literally flipping burgers so that I could buy a new computer. I remember being amazed that it had a 1 GHz processor in it.

Current Phone: iPhone 4

Favorite App: Pandora and NPR News. I use them both everyday to stream music and news stories.

Favorite hangout: My favorite places to hang out are local pubs around town. Living in Maple Leaf, I often head over Roosevelt Ale House for a beer.

Favorite Cause: Two charities I support are Child’s Play and Heifer International. Child’s Play provides toys and videos games to Children’s Hospitals. Heifer International fights hunger and poverty by providing people with livestock.

Most important technology of 2012: The Google’s Project Glass is a fascinating piece of technology. I love the idea of walking around with a HUD showing me information about my surroundings. I’ve spent so much time using HUDs in FPSs, it would be fun to try out in real life.

Most important technology of 2015: I hope by 2015 we’ll see some self-driving cars on the road. They have the potential to make driving safer and reduce highway congestion. It’d be great to sit back and let your car deal with rush hour traffic.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.” – Yoda (‘The Empire Strikes Back’)

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