The Guaranteed Uncertainties, Wearable Futures

Blog /The-Guaranteed-Uncertainties
Technology innovations have two sides, the known and the unknown.  The "known" is what is expected or predicted; it is a "guaranteed certainty." An example of this is the current wearable market.  The wearable market is booming – these devices are stylish, hip, and smartly track the steps, the distance covered, and calories burned. At night, they track your sleep quality and wake you silently in the morning, promoting healthy living. The other side of the technology innovation is the unknown, or "guaranteed uncertainty." Often, it is the guaranteed uncertainties that will take us to the next step in technological advancement.

Pondering the unknown side of such human metric-tracking technology, in spite of strong projections in its current form, I strongly believe that wearable technology in its current form is just a temporary phenomenon. Exploring the "guaranteed uncertainty" side of the technology advancement, my hypothesis is that it is a matter of time until this technology and the device will pivot to something complex, much smaller in size, and intimate.  These devices will have the ability to interact closely with bodily functions and provide much more accurate and timely data directly to the consumer, that will prevent, support or help manage various medical conditions. Some could be lifesavers. There are few start-ups exploring this possibility already. Many of these technologies don’t look anything like today’s gadgets. There is an emerging class of wearable micro-devices that attach to the body like the common "band-aid."  In some cases they stick to your skin like "provisional" tattoos.  These are incredibly thin, flexible, and color coordinated to the skin.

Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, are a micro fabrication of miniaturized mechanical and electro-mechanical elements. The functional components of MEMS are miniaturized assemblies, sensors, micro sensors and micro actuators. Micro sensors and micro actuators are “transducers,” meaning devices that convert energy from one form to another. 

Endocrinology Magazine published an article about an ultra-thin, flexible sensor that sticks to the skin like a tattoo and can detect a person's blood glucose levels. These sensors are expected to have Bluetooth capabilities and would be able to send the data to a mobile device.  If the prototype materializes, it would be a game changer for diabetics. Currently most diabetics use invasive tools like lancets to prick their fingers to find blood glucose levels. 

MC10, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., is testing a device that is a small rectangular sticker, about the size of a piece of gum, and includes wireless antennas, temperature and heart-rate sensors and a tiny battery. Soon, there could be tattoos that keep track of our skin and warn us when ozone issues are detected.  Scientists at the University of Tokyo are working on an “e-skin.” Your guess is right: It is an electronic skin that fits on top of human skin.  It is a flexible and stretchable sheet of plastic wrap that contains health-related sensors that can transmit data to mobile device.

As I was writing this blog, a question popped up in my mind: What was the first wearable device to aid humans? The device I am talking about is widely prevalent and dates back to the 1st century AD and the first formal version of it showed up around 1286.  We have come a long way since then.

(Pic Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

Post Date: 2/20/2015

default blog image Srikanth Devarajan

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