Digital tattoo is a speculative application of the flexible electronics. Flexible electronics is utilized in various areas of consumer electronics, allowing manufacturers of electronic devices to attain some amount of packaging flexibility for years. With the developments in materials science and circuit printing technologies, the circuit boards have become circuit films, some of which are sufficiently thin to be employed as temporary tattoo. These digital tattoos are general circuits at a high level, but are realised with the utilization of wire structures that can deform, on very thin substrate, so that it can cling to human skin by the Van der Waals forces.
The digital tattoo concept is created by NewDealDesign – the same company that created the Fitbit activity tracker. The digital tattoo can be implanted or printed on the hand, enabling the wearer to exchange information with a mere contact like a handshake. The tattoo would utilize the electro-chemical energy of the body, staying permanently activated and allowing the user to activate technology by merely touching it. For instance, Doors can be unlocked just by touching and credit cards can be used by holding them.
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Digital Tattoos: Applications
The digital tattoos are expected to mark the next major step in transforming the wearable technology market. Major application of digital tattoo is generating a response from a radio signal; for instance a RFID transmitter is used to store an exclusive digital code. This exclusive code is then used in cases such as unlocking smart phones and for authentication purposes during digital payments.
Further development in the flexible electronics, with increasing complexity, would expand the applications of the digital tattoos to the venue admission by identification of digital details, smart payments, and social media networking such as check-ins and acquiring contact information. In the near future, the skin printed sensors (successors of digital tattoos) will be utilized for medical purposes including monitoring the skin hydration, temperature, and any type of electric signals from muscles and brain activity.
Digital Tattoos: Market Dynamics
In July 2014, Motorola Corporation launched the digital tattoo for identification of its Moto X handset. The digital tattoo sticker unlocks the smartphone without the need of any passwords or patterns. Created to work solely with Motorola Corporation’s Moto X smartphone, the small circular tattoo utilized the near field communications technology (NFC) to interact with the mobile device. This technology behind the digital tattoo was originally developed by ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects group) research and development team of Google Inc.
Several researchers are continuously engaged in the developments of digital tattoo technology so that they can measure electrical activity from the body more efficiently. This could allow healthcare experts to monitor and diagnose critical health conditions such as heart arrhythmia, heart activities of premature babies, sleep disorders and brain activities noninvasively. In addition, the digital tattoo would also assess physical movements, enabling it to distinguish between distinct social modes of interaction, expressed via hand.
Initially created digital tattoos were either stretchable but not flexible or flexible but not stretchable. With the advancements in flexible and stretchable electronics, the digital tattoo currently available in the market achieve mechanical properties of skin, and are capable of withstanding twists.
The market for digital tattoos is currently at the nascent stage and possess high potential to improvise the interaction between human and smart devices. Additionally, it has promising prospects for the patients in the healthcare industry at lower healthcare expenditures. However, digital tattoo technology is still very much in its early stages of development and commercial availability and is expected to bring technical anomalies acting as a challenge foe the growth of the market in the near future.
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Digital Tattoos: Key Players:
Major players engaged in the development and marketing of digital tattoo technology are NewDealDesign, Motorola Corporation, Google Inc., and VivaLnk Inc. Presently, the companies are targeting only the smart phone authentication application of digital tattoos; however with the development of IoT platforms, these players aim to expand horizon of applications to other smart devices.