How flexible, wearable electronics can save lives

Wearable, shmerable. How about ingestible?

Woman wearing electronic sticker on her left temple.

MC10’s “Biostamp” stickers can integrate electronics into a thin layer that moves with your skin. (MC10)

While today’s consumers debate the merits of wearable technology like smart watches and Google Glass, tech companies are already looking beyond that to the day when the tech disappears on—or even in—the human body. MC10, a startup in Cambridge, Mass., has developed the Biostamp, a near-transparent wearable sticker that contains printed electronics that move and stretch with your skin.

Expected to hit the market this year, these “body-integrated electronics” are initially targeted at health and fitness applications such as monitoring body temperature and hydration levels, but could proceed into areas such as baby monitoring if MC10 can overcome societal objections to the implications for privacy and a cyborg-like future. Indeed, co-founder John Rogers is now working on soluble electronics that can be swallowed or placed surgically in the body.

Baby wearing Biostamp chest monitor

Lightweight flexible electronics have potential health care applications such as monitoring vital signs in newborns. (MC10)

Combined with Google’s recent development of contact lenses that monitor blood sugar levels for diabetics—but that are expected to eventually have all the capability of Google Glass—you may never know whether the person next to you on the bus is online or not, says Keith Gillard, managing partner of Pangaea Ventures, a Vancouver-based venture capital firm that’s watching this space. “It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s potentially very disruptive to our culture and the way we interact with each other.”