Over the past few years we have seen a wide range of connected objects appearing. Now Motorola, not necessarily a company one would immediately think of as a major innovator on the digital scene, is back with a bang, filing a patent for a new communication device in the form of a stick-on ‘tattoo’ that will apparently enable users to make more audible phone calls in noisy places. How exactly this technology will be used is still unknown however, as no information has been released regarding a possible product launch.

Motorola connected ‘tattoo’ designed to facilitate phone calls

Although still a fairly small niche in the digital sector, the market in connected tools is booming. Players in the digital and telecommunications sectors have been exerting their creative efforts to try to make consumers’ lives easier. Following Google Glass, smart watches and other wearable devices, Motorola is now getting in on the act with its ‘connected tattoo’. The US company, which was taken over by Google in 2011, appears to be trying to change the traditional concept of the smartphone.  In May this year, Motorola announced that it was looking to replace traditional passwords with electronic tattoos or authentication pillswhich people would swallow. Now the firm has filed for patent protection for an invention which consists of‘Coupling an Electronic Skin Tattoo to a Mobile Communication Device”,and also includes a microphone.

Communication technology integrated into the body

This fascinating invention is basically a mobile phone transceiver embedded in an electronic ‘tattoo’ that will adhere to the human skin and will capture vibrations and sound directly from the user's throat. The system will enable him/her to communicate in wireless mode using a WiFi network, Bluetooth or NFC. It will serve to eliminate background noise, thus making for clearer voice calls. The company says it is compatible with most mobile devices such as smartphones, and tablets, plus portable games consoles and other connected objects. Motorola indicates that the tattoo will need to be changed on average once a week. The filing also mentions that it could be used on animals. However the basic patent filed by Motorola gives very few clues as to what form the invention will take or how it will actually be used. Some analysts are assuming that the tattoo will be powered by solar energy.

Future uses and drawbacks still unclear

There are currently no projections for future production of this connected device.It may be that Motorolais looking to come up with inventions and protect them in order to prevent new players from developing similar ideas. So we should probably not expect to see this one on the market any time soon. The most likely application would be to allow people to control their smartphone using their voice. Indeed this type of technology is already in use in the military sphere. According to Patrick Moorhead, chief analyst at US firm Moor Insights & Strategy, the US Army already uses neck microphones for clearer communications. Nevertheless we cannot yet know what side-effects thismight entail and Motorola has so far remained silentas regards the potential health risks of the device. One possible use for it might be as part of a lie detector system: the tattoo could be fitted with a galvanic skin response detector using the body’s electrical current. The underlying principle is that the skin’s galvanic response varies from the normal reading when a person is nervous – which may be used to assess when the person is not telling the truth. The announcement of Motorola’s patent filing could well herald the start of a new era of connected objects actually integrated into the body. The fusion of technology and the human body may perhaps be just around the corner.

Manon Garnier