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HEALTH | 06.10.2024

Electronic Tattoos For Your Health

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Are you familiar with this technology? Probably not, as it’s still in the development stage. In any case, electronic tattoos aren’t just for cyborgs, nor are they solely about aesthetics. They hold potential for future use in better monitoring health and fitness-related variables.

Throughout history, the world of tattooing has been surrounded by numerous anecdotes, especially considering that the origins of the first tattoo date back over 5,000 years, with the Egyptians being credited as the inventors. Back then, tattooing was primarily seen as a preventative measure, rooted in the belief that it could ward off illness.

Introduced to Western society in the 18th century, tattoos were commonly associated with sailors due to their prevalence around ports. Their widespread popularity came in the 20th century, and today, they are widely embraced as a means of expression and body art.

Even the health sector has found a way to integrate into this legendary trend. Do you want to know how?

Utility and Functionality

Electronic tattoos are a burgeoning innovation that, at present, transcends mere aesthetic appeal. Their potential within the realm of healthcare is gradually taking shape, drawing parallels to ancient Egyptian practices that prioritized preventive measures. They are envisioned to monitor various health variables and as a possible method of early detection of diseases.

In essence, electronic tattoos are engineered to detect fever, certain infections, and physiological anomalies, while also remotely monitoring vital signs like blood pressure and temperature, subsequently storing the information.

There is, however, a remarkable advantage: unlike traditional tattoos, these devices leverage biotechnology, eliminating the need for needles. Instead of piercing the skin, they are envisioned as small patches—crafted from polymeric materials—with direct printing or adhesion capabilities. These patches can deform or wrinkle like our skin without sustaining damage.

In this innovation, conventional pigments will be replaced by ink containing “nanotracers” capable of transmitting, receiving, and collecting information. Some enabling technologies include NFC (Near Field Communication), familiar from contactless credit cards, and radio-frequency wireless technology. Efforts are also underway to enable these devices to generate their own energy through user movement, thus achieving autonomy.

Examples of use

Its application in monitoring our health variables can prove highly practical, ensuring continuous and updated control. On a daily basis, the device will gather information about our physical condition and store it as medical reports, ensuring that we always have the latest data at hand. Multi-functional sensors will also enable medical tests such as electroencephalograms or electrocardiograms.

Further studies suggest that electronic tattoos could serve as an early detection method for certain diseases or for better management of chronic conditions. One particularly advanced project is underway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), focusing on monitoring blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. Using optical and colorimetric technologies, it provides information on glucose levels without the inconvenience of traditional blood tests, relying solely on color changes in the tattoo. This facilitates prompt attention in case of deviations from normal values. 

Similar to smartwatches and fitness trackers, these devices will also be capable of monitoring sports activity, sleep patterns, heart rates, and even incorporate GPS tracking (particularly beneficial for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's).

And much more

In addition to collecting and storing information about our physical condition, electronic tattoos will offer much more. Their potential applications in the future could extend beyond healthcare and sports, including areas such as home automation for controlling devices and appliances, as well as wireless payment systems, which are already in development.

As with most technological innovations, electronic tattoos have both critics and supporters. Among the latter is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who believes they could eventually replace mobile phones due to their advantages.

While their technique is still being perfected and they are not yet a proven reality, if you’re concerned about managing your health, at MAPFRE, you can find a range of insurance options tailored to your needs. From essential services like basic healthcare assistance to comprehensive plans, with or without copays, and reimbursement products, we offer precisely what you need to safeguard your health and that of your family.