Biometric Tattoos: The future is now!

A biometric tattoo referred to as 'gold leaf' developed by MIT and Microsoft

Wearable Tattoos: The Next Step in Fashion Tech!

We talk about the love for inking a lot on our blog, but there’s another kind of tattoo we haven’t touched on yet – biometric tattoos!

What exactly are biometric tattoos?

Biometric tattoos are wearable technology that can be wired for many purposes. They aren’t anything like a traditional tattoo, however – there are no needles, and they don’t use tattoo ink. In reality, these tattoos are wearable little technological marvels that are closer to the fashionable temporary tattoos from our childhoods.

A biometric tattoo from a pioneer in the field, Chaotic Moon
A biometric tattoo from Chaotic Moon

Wearable technology might not be a new concept for many of us, especially since the fashion technology industry has been experimenting with this area for a long time. But what is truly amazing about biometric tattoos is that they are built with the purpose of monitoring your physiological functions, making them quite valuable as a medical aid!

A health-monitoring electronic tattoo, also called an 'e-tattoo', worn on the bicep
A biometric tattoo

Biometric tattoos come equipped with components that monitor things like stress levels, body temperature, heart rate and how hydrated you are, giving you feedback about your physiological functions. Some are even able to monitor the calories you burn!

In short, it’s like walking around with a little health monitor, except its not nearly as bulky or intrusive as the health monitors we currently use – and it is made of a much more flexible material so it does not restrict your movement in any way.

A biometric tattoo that is extremely minimalist and nearly invisible
A ‘minimalist’ biometric tattoo!

These tattoos extremely easy to use too – just stick on and you’re done, no charging needed. And if that weren’t enough, they’re also just as easy to take off – simply peel it off, or if it uses paint, rinse and pat dry! This is why it is predicted that these tattoos will soon replace fitness bands that are quite popular at present.

So how do these ‘tattoos’ work?

The simplest biometric tattoo uses a battery, conductive paint, and a tracker.

A jar of electric paint, which is the ink used to draw on a biometric tattoo
Electric paint, used to ink biometric tattoos

When they are set up, these basic components can collect vital information from the human body which can then be shared with your doctor or insurance company after it is synced to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Pretty nifty!

A biometric tattoo made using basic components - a battery cell, conductive paint, and a GPS tracker
Basic biometric tattoo with a battery cell, conductive paint, and a GPS tracker

Some biometric tattoos are also equipped with components that allow the tattoo to change colour by monitoring blood sugar and sodium levels. This allows the device to give you a ‘status report’ of your health and even alert you when something is wrong, such as detecting changes in glucose levels of diabetic patients. That’s right, no more pinpricks! Once these are released into the market, that is.

A biometric tattoo that changes colours

Other wearable biometric tattoos have been developed to help diagnose heart conditions by monitoring ‘beat of your heart, the sound of your voice, and even the whirr of an implantable heart pump.’

A biometric tattoo developed to help monitor the heart
Biometric heart-monitoring tattoo

Imagine that, a world where stick-on tattoos are capable of saving lives!

What else can these tattoos do?

While the research around biometric tattoos has focused on medical needs, this isn’t the only area these wearables have been applied to.

Communications has also seen some interesting experimentation with wearable technology. A few years ago, researchers developed a temporary tattoo that could ‘turn into a touchpad, remotely control your smartphone, or share data using NFC‘ (near-field communication).

A biometric tattoo referred to as 'gold leaf' developed by MIT and Microsoft
The Gold Leaf biometric tattoo from MIT and Microsoft

Essentially, wearable tattoos are being developed to turn our skin ‘smart’. It’s a good thing these are temporary though – imagine trying to enter an exam hall or get on a flight with one of these on your body!

What’s next for wearable tattoos?

The technology behind biometric tattoos is consistently being experimented with. Wearables have a much wider range of applications beyond medicine, such as in the army for monitoring stress levels, detecting poison in the air, and even alerting the wearer or their unit to pathogens in a soldier’s body. The device is also being experimented with for location trackingmics (for wireless calling), and making remote payments.

In future, these devices will be upgraded until they’re much smaller and can even be placed inside the body! Unfortunately, the ink that would be used for permanent biometric tattoos is not safe to use on the body just yet. So even though biometric tattoos are set to break away from the fashion tech industry at some point, that reality is at least a few years away! Till then, wearable technology is still ‘in fashion’.

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