There, monitoring changes in temperature or flow could warn of impending malfunctions.
To move the bugs, the scientist hit on using cilia-like motion, much like some deep-sea creatures use to propel themselves. They covered one face of the microchip with tiny cantilever arms.
"They would then move along on these like millipedes," said Dr Djakov, now Director of Sensor Development at Microvisk Technologies.
But the cilia approach - the cantilever arms to propel the bugs - has gone further.
At Microvisk, Dr Djakov's team stripped down the microchips and put the intelligent sensing mechanisms right into the cantilever arms, almost like a cat's whiskers.
"This is very interesting for probing blood, plasma, and other bodily fluids," said Dr Djakov.
At present, investors are betting on a device to monitor blood coagulation for patients taking blood thinner medication: "It's like a diabetes test, but for thrombosis."
Thanks to this coagulometer, the Microvisk CoagLite, patients will soon be able to test themselves at home with the prick of a finger.
"You need less blood, which means there is less pain," said Dr Djakov, who compared its ease-of-use to diabetics' simple glucose monitors. "Haematologists are finding it really important."
Now undergoing clinical testing with US Food and Drug Administration, the coagulometer should be on the market later next year.
"It would be good for things like plasma or teardrops," said Dr Djakov, "or to test the oil in a car engine, or in the food industry, to test chocolate or ketchup.
"There are literally hundreds of applications, for this innovation which started as a 'space bug'."