This Paper Watch could be an affordable fitness tracker alternative

Paper cuts, inbound
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

If you're looking to jump into the fitness tracker game but find yourself balking at the loftier prices, this 'Paper Watch' prototype could soon provide health-monitoring capabilities at a fraction of the price.

The DIY-style design makes use of household staples, such as sponges and aluminium foil, and combines them with silicon-based chip components to create a tracker that would be affordable for almost everyone, its inventors claim.

While it's known as the Paper Watch, it does have the notable deficiency of not being able to tell the time… yet. That doesn't mean the device is redundant, though, with the inventors at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia managing to harness measurements for body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and sweat levels.

Read this: The best budget fitness trackers

"I [have a] vision about an interface which will enable anyone to go to a pharmacy and buy a disposable sensor and insert it easily. This will give flexibility to innovators and consumers," said Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, an electrical engineer at KAUST.

Of course, the draw of such a device would be the price. While trackers with the same (and perhaps lesser) capabilities regularly sport prices north of $50, the prototype Paper Watch costs $25. And the cost-cutting fun may not stop there.

"I really would like to disrupt the technology world by making technologies available to everyone especially those who cannot afford them. Therefore, my objective is to reduce the price [by] $5 per year in the next five years until it reaches to a point where literally everyone has one."

But how did the KAUST engineers manage to lock all that tracking into such a cheap wearable?

Well, temperature and humidity sensors were fashioned through the use of a silver ink pen on Post-It Notes. Meanwhile, pressure sensors are made from aluminium foil, double-sided tape, and microfibre cleaning wipes. Combined, this makes up the bottom layer.

Above sits the readout circuitry for the sensors, as well as a third layer that contains an all-important silicon-based microprocessor chip. Finally, a top layer includes an RFID tag, again making use of the sneakily versatile Post-It Note and silver ink pen collaboration, and a flexible radio chip. Once the magic is complete, the layers are housed inside a 3D printed casing.

The current prototype is being tested alongside software developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and would be able to pair with the smartphones of potential customers.

Oh, and about that whole clock face thing.

"Of course, 'Paper Watch' is a catch phrase, but adding clock capability is easy and we are on that," Hussain said.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

This Paper Watch could be an affordable fitness tracker alternative

How we test

Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

Related stories