Home Wearable tech moves to ears with smart earrings for health monitoring

Wearable tech moves to ears with smart earrings for health monitoring

Wearable tech expands into new territory with a prototype smart earring that offers fashionable health monitoring.

Researchers from the University of Washington have developed the Thermal Earring, a piece of jewelry that can monitor the user’s temperature. Early tests on six users demonstrate the Thermal Earring out-performing a smartwatch at sensing skin temperature during periods of rest.

How does the smart earring work?

At about the size and weight of a small paperclip, the earring is an unobtrusive form of wearable tech, with a 28-day battery life. It attaches to the ear with a magnetic clip (so no need for a piercing) and attaches one temperature sensor to the wearer’s ear, while another sensor dangles below it. This second sensor estimates room temperature.

The small size of the wearable presented a challenge to its engineers.

“It’s a tricky balance,” said co-lead author Yujia (Nancy) Liu, who worked on the research during her Masters. “Typically, if you want power to last longer, you should have a bigger battery. But then you sacrifice size. Making it wireless also demands more energy.”

To strike that balance, the team focused on making the earring’s power consumption as efficient as possible, leaving just enough room for its essential components of a Bluetooth chip, a battery, two temperature sensors and an antenna. One way they did so was by employing Bluetooth advertising mode, rather than needing to pair the earring with another device, which uses more power.

After reading and sending the temperature, the Thermal Earring goes into deep sleep to save power. What’s more, the piece of smart jewelry can be personalized with various resin designs or with a gemstone, without negatively affecting its accuracy.

Earlobe temperatures tend to change more often than core temperatures, being affected by eating, exercising and experiencing stress. After more use cases are tested, it’s hoped that the earring will be able to provide insights into daily health rhythms, as well as potentially incorporate heart rate and activity monitoring in future versions.

Featured image: Raymond Smith/University of Washington

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Rachael Davies
Tech Journalist

Rachael Davies has spent six years reporting on tech and entertainment, writing for publications like the Evening Standard, Huffington Post, Dazed, and more. From niche topics like the latest gaming mods to consumer-faced guides on the latest tech, she puts her MA in Convergent Journalism to work, following avenues guided by a variety of interests. As well as writing, she also has experience in editing as the UK Editor of The Mary Sue , as well as speaking on the important of SEO in journalism at the Student Press Association National Conference. You can find her full portfolio over on…

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