What makes the electronic tattoo device both lightweight and durable is the fact that it is made of graphene – a compound similar to graphite found in wooden pencils (via UT News). By enclosing a sensor in thin layers of graphene, the electronic watermark becomes almost imperceptible to the user. “The sensor in the tattoo is weightless and unobtrusive. You place it there. You don’t even see it and it doesn’t move,” co-author Roozbeh Jafari said in the UT News release.
By emitting small electrical currents into the skin, the device is able to gauge the body’s response, which is then interpreted into blood pressure readings using machine learning technology developed by the research team (by UT news). With levels of accuracy that “exceed nearly any option available on the market today,” e-tattoo technology circumvents some of the hurdles associated with smartwatch health monitoring. For example, electronic tattoos can stay firmly in place rather than moving across the surface of the skin. Additionally, smartwatches often collect heart rate data by assessing the degree of LED light penetration into the skin, which can lead to inaccurate readings for people with darker skin tones or larger wrists.
Although the research is promising, the technology still needs to be perfected. Currently, the study team thinks these devices could be readily available within five years. They aim to link the technology to personal Bluetooth devices (via WebMD).