Forget the wrist, wearables are moving even closer to the consumer.
MC10 Inc. and PCH have teamed up to commercialize what are essentially smart temporary tattoos. The skin-worn, ultrathin, stretchable, customizable and disposable stamp is officially called a Wearable Interactive Stamp Platform, or WiSP. It is designed to enable a dizzying array of applications — from cashless payments to checking in to an event or a hotel room.
Some day soon a shopping trip might not require a wallet, or even a smartphone or smartwatch. Or all those fashion week invitations could be replaced by a WiSP stamp that would confirm one’s identity to the bruisers at the door and serve up the necessary credentials.
PCH and MC10 were behind L’Oréal’s recent UV Patch for La Roche-Posay that measures an individual’s sun exposure. That effort could prove to be just the beginning.
MC10 is a Boston-based health-care technology company that specializes in body-worn electronics, and PCH is a San Francisco-based product design and manufacturing company. After L’Oréal and MC10 successfully worked together to develop the L’Oréal My UV Patch, which was based on the WiSP tech developed by MC10, PCH was able to manufacture the patch at scale. They also saw an opportunity to expand into a range of applications and industries. PCH now has the rights to market and produce the stamp for third-party brands.
They’re disposable and comparably economical to produce. Any company with the software for a customer to check-in using a smartphone has the tech tools necessary to start developing a smart stamp. The stamp pairs with a smartphone, tablet or a near field communication reader to interact with the wearer.
The stamps have a very small, thin profile, and can be designed with the same diversity in color or design available to “analog” temporary tattoos. The stamps do not track a wearer’s location unless the wearer connects to a NFC device.
Liam Casey, PCH founder and chief executive officer, said the ability to customize the stamp “allows brands to create personalized and engaging experiences that reinforce customer loyalty.”
Although the size can vary, the larger the stamp, the more effective the internal coils that power it. The shape doesn’t matter much. The L’Oréal-designed patch, for example, was a blue heart that was roughly the size of a quarter. (L’Oréal still retains exclusivity for any applications of this product in the beauty world.)
Festivalgoers — and fashion week patrons — will be happy to note that the stamps are waterproof and designed to last for about five days, but bouncers will also be relieved to know that they cannot be removed and reworn. The stamp is specifically designed to tear and become unreadable upon removal. (Sorry, gate crashers.)
The L’Oréal pilot helped the company refine the manufacturing process and new iterations of the technology can be expected in the near future.
“After refining the smart stamp technology and production process, we can now go to market with new versions of the product quickly, at large consumer scale,” Casey said.
Although the technology exists, it remains to be seen how quickly consumers and brands might latch on. The burden, said Jeff Berry, research director of loyalty marketing research firm Colloquy, is on the wearable tech and retail industries to create a strong case for new types of wearables.
“It’s important that manufacturers and retailers understand we’re still relatively early in the wearables evolutionary process,” he said, citing recent survey research from Colloquy that showed that 52 percent of U.S. consumers feel they don’t know enough about wearables or don’t understand them.
And for something that looks like a tattoo or a sticker, age appropriateness is also a consideration. The study found that 58 percent of consumers said they’d like to use a wearable device, but felt too old. “As consumer awareness of wearables grows, we’re likely to see more exciting and relevant applications that leverage the diverse capabilities of wearable technology,” Berry said. “Some will catch on, while others will be bought and then sit in a drawer.”