Move over smart rings and smartwatches – smart earrings are on the way

The Thermal earring in a person's right ear with a flower hiding the circuit board
(Image credit: Raymond Smith/University of Washington)

Slowly but surely, tech is finding its way into every wearable accessory we have – the best smartwatches have been on the scene for years, serving not only as an extension of our smartphones but as health and fitness trackers, while the best smart rings offer sensors for key health metrics in a smaller package than watches. And now it’s time to get ready for smart earrings.

Researchers at the University of Washington have unveiled the Thermal Earring, which is worn in your ear like a regular earring and features two temperature sensors. One of these is in the stud and detects your skin temperature, while the other dangles below, monitoring the ambient temperature around you and transmitting the readings from both sensors to a compatible device via Bluetooth (via Android Police).

Thanks to this two-sensor system, the researchers found that it’s better at measuring body temperature than a smartwatch – at least for the six participants who have tried the earring out so far.

If this improved accuracy holds for a larger pool of subjects, the team behind the earring hopes it could become a useful health tool. Improved temperature accuracy could lead to a more reliable version of the menstrual-cycle tracking we’ve started to see in smartwatches, and the earrings could help any wearer by alerting them to fevers, stress, and other conditions that can affect body temperature.

Not yet ready to wear

The Thermal earring on a desk

(Image credit: Raymond Smith/University of Washington)

Before we’re all wearing smart earrings, however, several things stil need to be worked out. For a start, as mentioned above, a lot more testing will need to be carried out, as a six-person sample size is far too small to draw far-reaching conclusions from.

Then there’s the design. If dangling circuit boards aren’t your vibe you can add resin charms to hide them, but this solution won’t be to everyone’s liking, and more universally stylish designs will need to be made available and tested to ensure they don’t impair accuracy. 

Plus, the design will need to be altered to use a material such as silver or another hypoallergenic metal, otherwise the Thermal Earrings could create more problems than they solve for some people.

In general, though we’re excited by the idea of smart earrings, and can’t wait to see these designs featured in a product we could actually buy and wear.

Smartwatches have become one-stop shops for health and fitness, but your wrist probably isn’t the best place to measure all your vitals. By splitting their sensors across multiple wearables all working in tandem you can place them where they’re most effective, which in turn should enable more accurate and useful health and fitness monitoring.

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Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.