Many companies have tried to marry tattoos and wearable technology. Microsoft, for example, has been working on ways to turn digital tattoos into NFC tags and even partnered with MIT Lab to find a way to use digital tattoos to control your gadgets.
Most of these projects have been in the research phase though, and are a far cry from being things people can actually buy and use. Team Tat is going straight for consumers though, with a new NFC-enabled digital tattoo now on Kickstarter for $5 for "first in line" customers. The company is looking for a simpler way to share information, allowing your digital tattoo, which it calls Tat, to be an NFC key into your social life, payments and more.
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When Team Tat looked at the digital tattoo research projects, it saw two things, co-founder Abhinay Agerwal tells Wareable. It saw a lot of research but no execution, and it saw things that no one would actually wear.
As it began to dive into possible technology for a digital tattoo, it saw that NFC chips were getting smaller and phone readers were getting more powerful. "Thus leading us to create a flexible form factor that can be sandwiched between a human's skin and our temporary tattoo," Agerwal said.
Tat uses a 6mm NFC chip slipped inbetween a custom ink layer that the company says lasts longer than most other tattoos (about two weeks) and a breathable adhesive that secures the NFC chip in place. The chip is flexible, allowing it to match your skin should it roll or curl. It's also small enough to allow for 9mm tattoos, which Team Tat say can fit on your fingertip.
The NFC chip is paired with a companion app that allows you to sync your information to it, so when someone taps their phone to your tattoo they can access your information. A photo of your business card, your social networks, your tickets for concerts or events are right there on your wrist. You can even use it for payments or unlock your phone. As for privacy, the company is working on that, planning to add encryption features via Kickstarter stretch goals. However, currently, the system allows anyone with an NFC reader to tap your tattoo and access your information. It's also willing to delay payment functionalities until security is sorted out, whether that be a custom solution produced by Team Tat or a partnership with a service like Venom. Software-based security, Agarwal says, is "definitely going to be a part of the final product."
Most importantly, you can customize what your tattoo looks like. So if you don't want to go with Tat's standard logo you can create your own design that the company will custom build.
Tat currently works with Android phones, since the OS has open NFC protocols that allow for the company to do the things capable of. While iOS currently doesn't allow developers to access the NFC reader on the iPhone, that'll change with iOS 11 this fall. The Tat, on the other hand, is estimated to begin shipping in January 2018.
Like asking whether elephants truly love peanuts, this is a question worth diving into. Team Tat's initial demos definitely work. You take your Android phone, tap it to one of its tattoos and it brings up a piece of information you want to share.
Team Tat's pricing - a mere $5 - makes it one of the more affordable crowdfunding campaigns we've featured. That price does jump up to $30 once the "first in line" period is over. There are two big questions surrounding Tat. One, can the company quickly build up to scale? It's currently negotiating with supply chain sources and manufacturers, and it's working on building servers to support its mobile app, it tells us.
The second question is over security. While it's unlikely people would be rushing up to you and pressing their phone against your tattoo to get whatever information you've made available, the ease of which your information can be shared is sure to rub some people the wrong way. Plus, it's still possible for someone to bump into you in the perfect way and get your information accidentally. To solve this problem, the company says it's working on an induction-powered encryptor, which is a prerequisite to both payment and ticketing features for Tat. As already mentioned, there'll also be software-based security to protect Tat users.
Overall, however, the low price of entry for backing Tat may reduce the potential risks. The team has a lot of work in front of it to deliver what it's promising, but if you be one of the "first in line" can spare $5 and would like to have a digital tattoo in your life for two weeks, it could be worth it.