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Cutting Edge

These wearables make Apple Watch look old-fashioned

High-tech stickers from Lexington’s MC10 to track UV exposure and other health data.

If you’ve been using a watch or bracelet to track your heart rate or number of steps, the Lexington-based company MC10 has news for you: It’s time to think beyond the wrist.

Wearable devices that track physiological activity have seen a surge in sales in the past several years, and last year’s release of the Apple Watch, with its built-in HealthKit tracking system, was hailed as the mainstreaming of the trend. The market for these sorts of devices is poised to grow by 18 percent in the next five years, according to a recent study by Accuray Research, and reach $33.4 billion by 2020. But the issue with these wearables remains: While people are eager to slap their new toys on their arms, one study found that a third of users stop using their trackers within six months. MC10 believes it has found a way to help fix that.

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Since launching in 2008, the company’s researchers have been working to develop small, flexible, wearable devices that users stick anywhere, so you don’t have to think about taking them on or off. What’s more, the company claims that by clinging directly to the skin, these stretchy gadgets can provide a more accurate analysis of biometric data. In 2013, MC10 announced a partnership with sports supplier Reebok to develop the CheckLight, a concussion sensor for athletes. And in January, the company unveiled two products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that will hit the market later this year. The first, the My UV Patch, will be launched in conjunction with skin-care giant L’Oreal, though a release date and price are not yet available. Sun worshipers will affix these postage-stamp-sized super-thin patches while they’re out on the beach to help them manage their exposure. The patch measures base-line skin tone, and when exposed to UV rays, photosensitive dyes in the patch change color. An accompanying smartphone app allows users to scan the device, using their phone’s camera or NFC chip, to determine how much sun is enough.

The second device, the BioStampRC, is for scientists hoping to better understand how the human body works and is set for a February release. It’s about half the size of a business card and measures heart rate and movement, among other metrics. MC10 has already provided more than 50 research institutes with beta versions of the stamp — Spaulding Rehabilitation Center and Harvard Medical School, among them — and has plans to both sell and rent the devices to scientists as well as provide software to help them with the data management.

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With MC10’s technology, “you have this ability to really unlock a lot of the data in and around the body,” says Isaiah Kacyvenski, the company’s global head of business development (and a former NFL linebacker). The goal is to help quantify human health data the way that Google has helped map the Internet. “We have a vision of mapping the entire human body with real-world data,” he says.

 

BioStampRC

> Dimensions — 6.6 by 3.4 by 0.3 cm

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> Weight — 6 grams

> Power Source — A wireless lithium battery can recharge the device in less than two hours.

> Connectivity — Bluetooth technology connects the BioStamp to the cloud through a tablet application.

> Sensors — An accelerometer, gyroscope, and electrodes track physiological data.

Janelle Nanos is a Globe business reporter. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.
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