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E-tattoo: Information Technology Under Your Skin


Your dog is probably microchipped in case he goes missing. Soon you’ll be tattooed with a tiny, highly sophisticated e-tattoo able to perform all kinds of tasks like storing and transmitting data. Sounds like a sci-fi fantasy, or an evil plot by the NSA?

A Korean tehcnology developer and an American company based in San Francisco are vying for the finish line for wearable nanomembranes. These devices are planted under the skin and can be used to detect tremors, dispense medication and they have other potential healthcare uses.

But maybe there is a sinister use in mind, too. Herding humans like cattle, perhaps, to keep the masses under control. Keep another Ferguson, MO from happening? That would be the ulitmate endeavor by governments bent on intruding on the lives of its citizens.

First strip them of all means to fight back, then, by remote control, direct their every move. How far into the future are we talking? Here’s an update on the status of the technology and one of its designers.etattoo


They say consumer technology is a lot like surfing. You have to know the exact time to catch a wave, because before you know it, the next one is closing in.

The folks at NewDealDesign, a San Francisco-based design house that’s the creative brains behind the popular Fitbit fitness tracker, believe the next wave in wearable technology is not a smart watch, or a calorie counter, or a camera that looks like a small kaleidoscope. This time, they’re going beneath the surface.

As part of FastCompany’s Wearables Week, NewDealDesign unveiled its take on what wearable technology will look like in five years. They called their concept “Project Underskin.”

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

“Underskin is a vision for what could be for wearables,” NewDeal’s CEO, Gadi Amit, told From the Grapevine. “Implanted or tattooed devices are happening – it’s not a matter of if, but when – and with that, we wanted to create a more human look at what that near future looks like. Not dystopian, cold sci-fi, but ambient and personal.”

The backbone of Project Underskin is a sub-dermal tattoo that would be implanted into your hand and would interact with everything you touch. You’d be branded with the ability to unlock your door, track your health or exchange information with a handshake.

Before you start conjuring images of humans being herded like cattle to special high-tech tattoo parlors, consider the source.

Amit is a veritable superstar in the design world. Born in Israel, he graduated from the Bezalel School of Art and Design in Jerusalem. After a few years working for model makers and industrial design firms in his home country, he moved to Silicon Valley in the early 1990s. In 2000, he left his job at Frog Designs to start his own firm. He’s won more than 70 awards, including Designer of the Year by Fast Company in 2010. In addition to the popular activity tracker Fitbit, his company’s portfolio includes Google’s Project Ara smartphone, the Better Place electric vehicle charging station, and the Whistle, a smart dog collar. Last year, he was selected by First Lady Michelle Obama, a big Fitbit fan, to receive the National Design Award, which honors excellence, innovation and lasting achievement in design.

When Amit makes forecasts about industry tends and timelines, people tend to take notice. So although it sounds far-fetched and, frankly, a little terrifying, Amit and his team can say with a great deal of confidence that the world is, indeed, ready to tattoo themselves with data.

Now the question is will the tattooses reflect our personal tastes in art? Can we have a replica of the Virgin Mary signal our insulin drip?

Or how about a tattoo of our kids’ names to transfer money from our bank to theirs? How convenient. . .for them. And, as with all other electronics, we will be relying on our kids to help with any malfunctions.  How appropriate . . . that our kids get under our skin literally.


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