'Sub-dermal' smart wearable devices are coming, maybe sooner than you think

When you hear the term 'smart wearables', what do you think of - a FitBit-style fitness-tracking wristband, an Apple Watch or perhaps the newly released Tag Heuer smartphone?

In other words, you're likely thinking of something you wear on your wrist – not in it.

Developers in the wearables industry believe we could be inserting 'sub-dermal' – or under-skin – devices within the next five years.

Skin deep

With the smart wearables market facing a rapidly expanding and technologically advanced future, your next smart device could be closer to you than you think.

Gadi Amit is the CEO and founder of NewDealDesign, the company behind design concepts for Fitbit and Google's Project Ara smartphone, and also oversees the 'Project Underskin' sub-dermal development project.

Amit told the CNet website: "These objects, electronics and digital thinking will become inherent to our existence … dealing with your brain, with your mental state, with access privileges, with a variety of medical conditions that could be really assisted by electronic, online, digital functions."

Access: everywhere

The range of functions these devices will help carry out includes communication, authentication with devices such as computers and door locks (no more passwords to remember) - and health monitoring.

While Project Underskin is only a concept, other companies are already taking steps on this path to the future. In 2013, Motorola Mobility patented a smart tattoo design that picks up auditory signals from a user's larynx for transmission to a smartphone or other smart wearable.

These radical developments will parallel an expected three-fold increase in the use of fitness devices by 2020, new research predicts.

Advertisement

Juniper Research that found the international market for fitness wearables is expected to triple over the next five years, generating more than $US10 billion ($14.1 billion) annually.

Watch this space

And as the boom in fitness trackers continues unabated, there is a clear shift towards smart wearables such as smartwatches. Featuring greater functionality and continuity with existing personal devices, like a smartphone, compared to a basic fitness tracker, many smartwatches measure and analyse more variables to create a comprehensive portrait of the user's lifestyle and fitness habits.

Smartwatches such as the Apple Watch and Samsung's Gear S2 not only track fitness stats, but allow control of smartphone functions and interaction with smart sporting devices and clothing as well.

Sales figures also indicate that leading a life monitored and controlled from a smart device on your wrist has become increasingly popular.

In the second quarter of 2015, Apple outsold its nearest rival, Samsung, selling more than 3.6 million Apple Watches worldwide – roughly two out of every three smart wearables sold, according to research firm IDC.

Basic problem

During the same period health tracker Fitbit's market share fell from roughly 30 per cent to just over 24 per cent, indicating a decline in basic wearable sales that is expected to continue, as customers embrace smarter, more connected, devices in favour of those that purely track basic fitness stats.

This trend, along with roadmaps provided by concepts like Project Underskin, continues to lead us into a future where smart wearables monitor our body and lifestyle 24 hours a day, giving us instant access to comprehensive data at the push of a button or the issue of a voice command.

Considering the growth in interest and advances in technology, the launch of sub-dermal wearable technology appears a matter of when, not if.