​#Trending: Stick-on wearables

Connected band-aids are here but which are wear, square and nearly there?
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We've been banging the drum about wearables disappearing for over a year now, and the band-aid form factor is a sure sign of an increasing trend. This year has seen a raft of sensors and devices take the form of stick-on plasters.

But why is this happening? Well, there are benefits of putting a sensor in a band-aid. Firstly, it enables you to choose areas of the body far better for collecting the data you need. Forget monitoring heart rate from the wrist – most band-aids adhere to the chest, which is closer to the action and less susceptible to the noise of light and movement that plague wrist-based monitors.

Essential reading: Wareable heart rate training diary

And we've seen plenty of good ideas filtering through. Aside from the names mentioned below, Temp Pal enables users to keep tabs on their baby's vitals and get alerts about changes in condition – aimed at those nursing a sick child. The same outcome is the vision behind BeVital, which is designed to be used in hospitals as an early warning system for changes in patients' vital signs.

And it's not just band-aids, plasters and patches. Connected tattoos are getting attention, in the form of Tech Temp Tattoo, Tech Tats and a brand new project from Microsoft Research – all of which draw circuit board onto the skin using conductive ink.

So why aren't we using stick-on wearables for all our training needs? Well, there are obvious downsides. The need to replace the sticky element each time you wear is probably the biggest. Then there's the lack of room for batteries and the fact that connected plasters don't have screens, which can be something of a fiddle to interact with.

So what can you get hold of today? Let's run you through the good, the bad and the ugly of stick-on wearables.

WEAR: SenseOn

​#Trending: Stick-on wearables

Newly reviewed by Wareable editor Michael Sawh, the SenseOn is almost ready for prime time. The stick-on sensor keeps tabs on your heart rate and breathing, reporting it back to a partner smartphone app. We found accuracy to be consistent with a chest strap, give or take a few bpm, and it cross-checked heart rate variability with breathing to estimate recovery.

It's not perfect by a long way. You get 30 stick-on plasters and there's no information how to get more, we suffered some un-sticking issues and it was a pain to sync. But when it comes to band-aids, this is as good as it gets.


​#Trending: Stick-on wearables

Giving this our 'nearly there' award is a bit of a stretch, as GraphWear's SweatSmart is a shoddy, unfunded student project from the University of Pennsylvania.

However, the graphene sensor inside the stick-on unit is capable of analysing hydration and electrolytes in real-time, which is something of a Holy Grail for wearable tech in terms of useful and actionable data. What's more, SweatSmart scores a stick-on double-whammy by revealing to Wareable that it's looking at tattoos as a form-factor for any future release. High ambition, indeed.

SQUARE: AmpStrip

​#Trending: Stick-on wearables

The original stick-on heart rate wearable, crowdfunded AmpStrip pulled the plug on its project leaving backers furious. Much like SenseOn, AmpStrip was designed to keep tabs on heart rate during workouts, by syncing to a smartphone.

The project was canned due to a 'lack of resources', but AmpStrip could live on as a medical product instead. Watch this space.


How we test

James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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