Electronic tattoos are becoming more popular in the healthcare industry. Even though this technology is still in its infancy, these tattoos promise improved Healthcare, especially for people with chronic diseases. Experts have estimated the market size for electronic tattoos and expect growth in demand from $3,901.3 million in 2022 to $ 8,457.4 million by 2032.
These tattoos are designed to monitor a patient’s vital signs in health care. They are flexible and can be worn for long periods, making them ideal for long-term care patients.
What’s an Electronic Tattoo?
An electronic tattoo is a temporary wearable health monitor that you can attach to the skin. Unlike traditional tattoos, which most people get for aesthetics, entertainment, or other reasons, electronic tattoos are only for medical reasons. These tattoos are also different from medical tattoos, which are designed for corrective aesthetic purposes. Electronic tattoos are also called “e-tattoos” and may come in different designs.
You’ve probably seen the temporary tattoos for kids in packs at the store that you stick and peel on your skin. This is how you apply an electronic tattoo, only that this uses advanced technology. To apply it, you only have to stick it on the skin and peel the paper off.
This type of electronic tattoo is an epidermal electronic system (EES) that uses the Van der Waals force. The Van der Waals force allows the patch to stick to the skin without using glue or other bonding agents, minimizing skin irritations.
The idea of having an almost weightless device that can monitor people’s health came from Professors John Rogers and Yonggang Huang. Both professors were by then working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Rogers is a professor in materials science and electronic engineering, while Huang is a mechanical engineer and now works at Northwestern University. Their microelectronic technology is an example of how combining efforts and expertise from different fields can improve the health sector.
The patch is waterproof and non-invasive, requiring no piercing or wires to function. Furthermore, this device is discreet, so it won’t attract much attention or restrict movement.
According to Huang during an interview, “The key thing is to make the device as flexible as possible to follow the skin topology.” True to his word, the electronic tattoo is flexible, stretchable, robust, and conforms to every skin type.
As for charging the device, there’s no need to connect charging cables to this gadget since it can charge wirelessly. Furthermore, the device already has a coil for wireless charging; you only need to place a wireless power source close to it.
E-tattoos are a non-invasive way to monitor a patient’s health constantly. They’re also much more comfortable than traditional medical devices, like blood pressure cuffs. And because they’re temporary, you can remove them at any time.
How Does Electronic Tattoo Work?
The e-tattoos use tiny silicon wires forming coiling patterns woven through the chip. It has sensors, photodetectors, transmitters, LED lights, and receivers.
The sensors can help track a patient’s temperature and electric signals from the body. The LED lights provide visual feedback, and photodetectors measure light exposure while the transmitter sends and receives data.
The electronic tattoos use wireless transmission systems such as Wi-Fi. Some electronic tattoos contain a circuit that can communicate with external devices. Recently, there has been much research and different versions of electronic tattoos. Some are still developing but have potential health and fitness, security, and gaming applications.
Besides the Roger and Huang epidermal electronic system, scientists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have also developed an electronic tattoo for monitoring health conditions.
However, unlike stick-and-peel technology, which is non-invasive, this tattoo uses ink, meaning it is drawn on your skin. It can connect to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine to monitor heart activity or heaters for physiotherapy.
Furthermore, the electronic tattoo from KAIST uses a soft, silvery liquid metal, gallium. This metal is also used in semiconductors, electronic circuits, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). You can find this technology in thermometers and nuclear medicine tests.
The data transmission method is one main difference between the Rogers and Huang technology and the KAIST tattoo. The latter needs wires to acquire and transmit data, while the former is strictly wireless.
Applications of Electronic Tattoos
Electronic tattoos can help healthcare experts monitor and diagnose their patient’s health, especially those with critical conditions. For instance, they can use it to detect heart arrhythmia, monitor heart activities of premature babies, sleep disorders, and brain activities noninvasively. Electronic tattoos can be used to do the following:
- Continuous blood pressure monitoring
- Motion tracking
- Physiological monitoring
- Measure electrocardiogram (ECG) and seismocardiography readings
- Hydration level monitoring
- Continuous brain monitoring
- Record muscle activities
The Future of Electronic Tattooing
Are digital tattoos the future of wearables? With tattoo technology still evolving, most people have this kind of question in their minds? Digital and electronic tattoo technology are flooding the market of wearables. Electronic tattoos have the potential to be used in other fields other than the healthcare industry. One of its future uses includes video gaming. Rogers and his team have used the epidermal electronic system to test whether the device can operate a voice-activated video game when placed on the throat. They discovered a 90% accuracy rate, meaning that gamers can use this technology soon in the game world.
What Are the Benefits of Electronic Tattoos?
The tattoos electronics technology is taking the healthcare industry by storm. From monitoring patients and diagonalizing health conditions to saving lives, there are many advantages associated with this device. Here we list just a few.
Keep Track of Your Health
Tracking patients’ health is the most significant benefit of a digital tattoo. An electronic tattoo’s primary goal is to keep you or your Healthcare on top of your health. This is crucial, especially for those with chronic conditions who need continuous monitoring.
The patch can help prevent serious health problems by providing accurate and instant information that allows doctors to make timely decisions.
It Is Flexible and Unobtrusive
There are many health wearables that one can use to monitor their health. However, they are not as flexible as an e-tatoo. For example, you cannot move around while wearing a blood pressure cuff because it is bulky, everyone will notice it, plus you have to sit still to achieve correct readings.
With an e-tattoo, you can do anything even when you have them since they are waterproof, flexible, robust, and stick directly to your skin. Furthermore, you can move around with it, and it can take actual readings by continuously taking measurements no matter what you’re doing.
Unlike other wearable technology, you can have an electronic tattoo for long periods and not irritate your skin. Furthermore, you can place them in areas where other wearables cannot be placed, such as the throat.
Most consumers prefer convenience over other factors when buying any product. For example, an electronic tattoo offers more comfort and convenience than any wearable health monitor. You can use it anywhere, even when asleep, especially when you connect to a smartphone, database, or other software.
Are Electronic Tattoos Permanent?
No. Electronic tattoos are not permanent, so you can remove them anytime you want. The best thing about e-tattoos is that you can wash them whenever you want, just like any other temporary tattoo.
Electronic tattoos are here to stay as health monitoring technology evolves daily. Scientists are working hard to ensure that this technology comes in a flexible and non-invasive way to offer convenience to its users. Besides boosting patients’ health and saving lives, it is also revolutionizing the healthcare sector. So far, electronic tattoos have been used in Healthcare to monitor vital signs, including heart rate, electrolyte levels, hydration, blood pressure, and more.
As electronic tattoos continue to gain traction, we hope to see even more applications for them in the healthcare industry.
Abc.net.au – Researchers develop electronic ‘tattoo’
Scitechdaily.com – Electronic Tattoo Offers Highly Accurate, Continuous Blood Pressure Monitoring
Futurity.org – Electronic Tattoo Offers Highly Accurate, Continuous Blood Pressure Monitoring
Howstuffworks – How Electronic Tattoos Work
YouTube.com – Science of Innovation: Electronic Tattoo