Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD
The future of wearables could be a (temporary) part of your body -- biometric tattoos could make for ideal portable health monitors.
According to recent studies, 1/3 of Americans have at least one tattoo, including nearly half (47%) of all millennials (18-35). Gen-Xers (36-50) aren’t far behind, with 36% sporting some kind of ink. Biometric tattoos are the natural evolution.
After all, we expect and demand versatility in every portable widget. Smartphones have become electronic Swiss Army Knives, replacing disposable cameras, GPS, MP3 players, compasses, and more. So why shouldn’t tattoos pull double (or triple) duty?
The tech, itself, is fairly rudimentary. We’ve tinkered with biometrics since the 19th century, and recently, intrepid designers have tried combining biometric technology with conductive ink. The result is a brand new sort of wearable, a “biowearable.”
Several firms and individuals have fiddled with biometric tattoos, but they all share a common recipe – conductive paint and microscopic electronic components. A mature version could detect everything from UV exposure to heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and a host of other medical readings. The surplus of real-time data would revolutionize healthcare and our relationship with doctors.
Click image to enlarge
A biometric tattoo from Chaotic Moon.
Biometric tattoos would also be far less intrusive than implantables, which cause infection and adverse skin reactions. And the current gen of prototypes are temporary, so they can be washed off like the henna tattoo you got on vacation.
“The next step in wearables are the BioWearables. It is a green, non-invasive tech that turns you into a human circuit board,” said Ben Lamm, the CEO of Chaotic Moon. Lamm’s software design and development firm has experimented with “Tech Tatts” since 2015.
More recently, students from Wichita State University developed the Cyfive, a biometric temporary tattoo that tracks a user’s heart rate. Cyfive lasts for three days and relays the heart rate info to an app on your smartphone.
“It’s like a regular tattoo that you put on with water; the only difference is the ink,” says Jared Goering, one of the students who designed the Cyfive. “It resonates under radio frequencies, and then we can pick up that signal that it resonates through algorithms which is then converted into heart rate.”
Meanwhile, LogicInk measures your sweat, skin volatiles, skin microbiome, or surrounding environment to detect UV exposure. The tattoo, which looks like a round nicotine patch, provides live feedback, showing the “irreversible accumulation of UV on your skin,” and the ink changes dynamically.
LogicInk’s UV exposure sensor is in production, due in November, and their Kickstarter campaign supports future versions that detect hydration, blood alcohol concentration, exposure to pollution, and even DNA.
Be sure to follow this and other biometric developments on powersystemsdesign.com.