What if certain markings on the skin can unlock the phone, give you access to entrance doors, measure blood pressure and body hydration level only to trigger an alert in case of some emergency? Digital tattoos can actually do all this and more that work as minilabs, allow interactive display stats on the skin’s surface thereby making healthcare more invisible. Here’s a brief of the latest trends and developing research efforts that making it all happen as we speak.
Human body – The next technological frontier
During development of medical devices, a general trend has emerged which is the tools that are getting more miniaturized, digitized and interlinked more than ever. In the past, the goal of medical instruments was to measure health statistics and parameters, take measurements but questions on accuracy, simplification and ease have always been a major concern.
However, the coming of online doctor’s app, health sensors and wearable brought us tinier, powerful, fast, accurate, connected and more streamlined range of clothing clips, smartwatches and health bands. The example of Lumo Run is the best which takes technological advancement to the next frontier and closest to human body more than ever.
Thin, seamless and unrecognizable sensors made of flexible elements first appeared interwoven with our clothes and now as digital tattoos on the skin, in form of digestible and in our blood vessels as nanobots.
Digitized garments with improved performance have already been introduced in sports medicine and the results are remarkable. Take example of HexoSkin which developed a shirts having a network of sensors interwoven that can measure breathing, heart rate, count the steps taken, calories burned and pace.
Further, researchers actively engaged in nanotechnology are taking strides experimenting with micro-sized robots that can literally move across the body fluids. The first digital pill to get FDA approval had a digital ingestion tracking system and introduced in 2017. Now we’ll have to observe how these digital tattoos work and incorporate into our skins.
Digital tattoo – What do we call it??
3D printing is constantly evolving which also advances the very printing technologies, flexible elements and electronics which made it possible to apply these digital or electronic tattoos on the skin for days/ weeks.
Some of the researches experimented with nanorods whereas others take on graphene or other such polymers with a rubber-made rear side that allow you to apply the tattoo on the skin without causing any irritation.
Technical and medical experts believe that these skin-applicable tattoos or patches are just the beginning of something more radical and possible testing of henna, makeup and tanning can be expected in near future.
These are made from waterproof and flexible elements that are stretch-resistant and the twisting coupled with nano-electrodes which records and transmit information of the wearer to smartphones or other linked devices which works as typical online doctor’s app. These are the reasons concept of digital tattoos unlocking smart devices, door accessing and also supports cross-country traveling took off. Back in 2014, a digital tattoo for identification was introduced by Motorola Corporation on its Moto X handset.
Since these tiny patches can measure electrophysiological parameters, healthcare experts are able to accurately monitor and diagnose critical health anomalies such as heart arrhythmia, cardiac activities in premature babies, neurological activities and sleep disorders in a non-invasive manner. Tracking of vital signs 24/7 without any charger is most suitable for patients at high risk of stroke. The digital tattoos can alert medical system, call in emergency team and ambulance while transmit important data as well.
In near future, tiny multi-layered patches might track muscle movements based on speech pattern when applied to the throat which literally turn these tattoos into wireless hands-free kit. While you don’t need to shout aloud, the device may pick up sub-vocals commands as well.