Imagine if the temporary tattoos that come in a box of Cracker Jack (if you’re lucky) had an electronic display logo that lights up when you put it on. Or a fitness tracker that you tape to yourself rather than wearing it around your wrist. Or a watch so thin that it lights the time while blending into your skin. Or even, a sensor that can be applied directly to an organ to determine health.
This is the future for electronic skin. Yup, I said it: E-Skin.
Researchers in Japan have developed an ultra-thin and ultra-stretchy material that can mimic the flexibility of human skin. Ultraflexible organic photonic skin is an organic polymer with light-emitting diodes (PLEDs) or small sheets of energy-efficient lights that are laminated right on the skin. These are intended to equip the human body with electronic components for health-monitoring and information technologies. These are transparent but when powered with electrical pulses, it’ll emit a colored light, number or letter depending on the implementation. The arrangement of PLEDs can also display more complex information. They also report that this PLED film produced less heat and consumed less power than previous e-skin samples.
The interesting thing here is that they used organic materials, added an extra layer of film to protect it from oxygen and water, so it lasted several days. Past organic efforts lasted less than a day due to air exposure. Today, non-organic materials used to make super-thin tattoo-like monitoring devices can last weeks or longer.
These advancements will only fuel the health care wearable market which is growing exponentially.
Research firm Tractica released findings from its report ‘Wearable Devices for Healthcare Markets’ that show worldwide shipments of healthcare wearables will increase from 2.5 million in 2016 to 97.6 million in 2021…or $17.8 Billion in yearly revenue. The general wearable device market will increase from 85 million units in 2015 to 559.6 million units by 2021 - a compound annual growth rate of about 37%.
If you thought the influx of data center and cloud traffic from mobile was big, just wait until all our body vitals start hitting the wire. Add that to all the other IoT initiates, like home/automotive, big data suddenly turns into ginormous data.
While we may instantly think about the fitness trackers and smartwatches that garner our bodies, the health care industry is also looking at the treatment of chronic diseases, wellness programs, remote patient monitoring and physician use. And there are other devices like posture monitors, connected wearable patches and pain management wearables that are gaining ground.
I can already hear the posture sensor barking, 'Stop Slouching!' and a pain patch that actually works instead of those menthol smelling globs – great idea!