Kent Uni scientists unveil the future of wearable gadgets

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Bulky fitness trackers may already be yesterday’s tech. The future of wearable gadgets will be flexible devices, no thicker than a sticking plaster, worn directly against the skin according to Kent University scientists.

How many of us have an abandoned Fitbit lurking in the bottom of a drawer? The short battery life was just one reason wearables never disrupted the market in the way their manufacturers hoped.

But now researchers at Kent are developing a new generation of printed electronic sensors which could be the wearable technology of tomorrow.

Imagine sticking plasters or temporary tattoo stickers that are able to check your health and help manage, or even avoid long-term conditions such as diabetes? 

Professor John Batchelor who is leading the work at Kent said: “The key is to make printed circuits on flexible and even bio-degradable ultra-thin batteries that don’t irritate the skin when worn for long periods.  

“This is the latest development in our skin-mounted wireless electronics which we previously used with the University of Cardiff to help patients rehabilitate after knee replacement surgery.”

The research, funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC), has involved electronics and battery specialists at Kent working with printing experts at the University of Manchester and the Centre for Process Innovation. 

If successful, the technology could have practical uses across the field of medical science, particularly in the field of children’s medicine. The distressing image of a baby connected up to tubes and wires may not be something parents ever have to witness if skin sensors can replace traditional monitoring equipment.

The new printed battery tags are also being investigated for use as pollution sensors as they can be produced as low-cost labels and put in places where air quality needs monitoring throughout the day.   

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