The Digital Tattoo is an accessory which sticks directly on to your skin and unlocks your Moto X smartphone. Are we going to see increasing use of wearables for this kind of function?

Digital "tattoo" makes unlocking your smartphone easier

On average a smartphone owner unlocks his/her device using a code 39 times a day, taking an average of 2.3 seconds to do so, according to the experts at the Google Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) lab.  It is now a fact of daily life that we need to use an array of codes, passwords or free-form gestures in order to ensure that our personal data are protected.  However, as many people find this a hassle, phone manufacturers are constantly looking for clever new ways and means of unlocking phones automatically. Motorola Mobility recently unveiled a Digital Tattoo which works with Motorola’s Moto X model.

Using Near Field Communications

Digital Tattoo has been developed by Google’s ATAP lab, whose task is to come up with advanced technologies for the Mountain View giant, in conjunction with Californian startup VivaLnk, known for its breakthrough eSkin technology which makes it possible to create electronics able to communicate with smartphones and tablets. Google owned Motorola Mobility until recently when the company was bought by Chinese electronics manufacturer Lenovo. VivaLnk has filed for a patent on its trademark eSkin, the technology on which Digital Tattoo is based. Basically, this accessory is a small NFC-based tag which sticks to your skin. The company claims it is free of health risks as the adhesive has been medically tested for biocompatibility. When you activate the NFC function on your Moto X, you then only have to tap your smartphone on the digital ‘tattoo’ in order to unlock it.

Phone data security comes at a price

Digital Tattoo is on sale in packs of ten stickers for around $10 (€7.50). The sticker is waterproof and so should survive your showers and/or heavy exercise sessions for up to five days. It seems that Motorola Mobility is keen to gain a foothold in the burgeoning wearable accessories segment, as Deepak Chandra, project lead at ATAP Google, explains in the presentation video: “We’re working to make life easier for users, especially when it comes to unlocking their smartphones. A phone is a personal object, so accessing it should be personalised.” Last year Motorola Mobility launched Skip, a wearable accessory that clips on to your clothing and allows you to unlock your smartphone automatically via NFC. The ATAP team claims that as the tattoo and clip make it less of a hassle to unlock your phone, owners will be encouraged to lock them more often, thus ensuring greater security for their smartphones. Nevertheless, it still remains to be proved whether these wearable accessories are as useful as all that.




By Eliane HONG