The tech industry has focused on human wearables for years, but while Joanna Nassar was pursuing her PhD, a question kept nagging at her: What about animal wearables? It may sound strange, but if you think about the droves of creatures studied by scientists every year, there are technically a lot of “animal wearables” (usually called tags) in circulation. We’ve made smartwatches, fitness-tracking rings and more to be comfortable and flexible, but tags attached to underwater creatures are often heavy, uncomfortable and, most of all, invasive (involving drills or clamps). Nassar says marine scientists told her the bulky tags limited what kinds of species they could work with — and, therefore, the kind of data they could collect on marine life.
With Bluefin, MMH Labs aims to turn that idea on its head. It made use of flexible, stretchable electronics to develop a product that could monitor levels of salinity, pH, temperature and depth, along with the physiology (or muscle strain) of a creature’s movement underwater. Bluefin can be fitted onto an animal in less than 30 seconds, and scientists can release it more than one mile below the surface. It can then track a Bluefin’s satellite location and, after retrieving it from an animal, collect the data wirelessly using Bluetooth. Currently, Nassar is a postdoc at Stanford and working on further expanding Bluefin’s capabilities.