Tattoo Ink Smarter Than You Think

The Problem

Category: Health

The ability to monitor a human’s health conditions in real-time can provide significant benefits to both individuals and organizations.  Wearable technology has led the way in human health monitoring, however that technology is limited because of battery life and the need for digital connectivity.  Furthermore, wearable technology is limited because of the physical detachment between the technology and the human’s body.

The Tech

Harvard and MIT researchers are testing smart tattoo ink that is able to monitor a person’s health conditions and change ink colors as a person’s health changes.

Biosensors are used in the ink.  As the ink lives within tissue cells, they can monitor blood levels and a person’s pH, glucose, and sodium.   The ink changes color – sometimes under a blue light – as a person’s health changes.

The potential applications are powerful.  Athletes to astronauts could learn when they’re dehydrated.  Diabetics can keep tabs on their blood sugar levels.  And doctors could potentially use temporary tattoos to monitor a patient’s health.


Article Title: Feeling woozy?  Time to check the tattoo
Website: Harvard Gazette

The Stakeholders Using The Tech

Any human can potentially wear the tattoo ink

Farmers could also tattoo animals [another application of the tech not mentioned in the article]

Doctors could use the tech to monitor patients

Humans with known conditions (ex: diabetics)

Tattoo artists would need to learn how to apply the ink

App developers could create apps that read ink colors and provide more detailed monitoring

The First Three Steps

1. The ink is still being tested on pig skin.  These tests must continue to confirm that the ink colors accurately reflect health conditions and that there are only tolerable side effects (hopefully none).

2.  Assuming pig skin tests are successful, human testing would need to be conducted next.

3.  The creators need to conduct market research on the demand for smart tattoo ink.  Will all tattoo wearers be interested?  Will only medical professionals be interested?  And how much is one willing to pay for smart ink?  The same price as a normal tattoo?  Perhaps a premium?  And, the creators need to determine how the smart ink will be supplied.  Will it only be supplied to doctors’ offices/hospitals?  Will all tattoo artists be allowed to apply the ink?

UNI: gm2778

Comment on Kelp as a Fiber

“Definitely a concept worth exploring for the fashion industry. I’m wondering if there are health risks if kelp is rapidly farmed via genetic modification. That might create two markets – GMO vs non GMO kelp products. Also, the article didn’t mention the cost of kelp, so I’m curious if it’s cost competitive with petroleum-based fibers.”


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