Faster Fashion: Intelligent Textiles Monitor Personal Biometrics
Advances in sensor technology and fabrics are transforming ordinary clothing into wearable health diagnostic devices.
Along with our partners Boehringer Ingelheim we’ve noticed a pattern emerging in high-tech fashion: Biometric clothing capable of measuring a wearer’s vital signs and even delivering a proper dose of medicine into the skin. Whether for monitoring patients at a hospital, remotely assisting those with long term health concerns, or gathering individual data related to fitness and performance, these ‘smart clothes’ are at the forefront of developments in personal medicine. Here are four examples that highlight recent advances in biometric and intelligent textiles.
Developed in Spain, these intelligent t-shirts monitor a patient’s location, heart rate, and temperature, delivering convenience to medical staff, while ensuring a patient’s safety and comfort without having to be confined to a bed. Data is gathered from a series of electrodes that record bio-electrical activity and wirelessly transmitted to a central management system. The garment is also outfitted with an accelerometer which measures the wearer’s activity level. Made of an ‘e-textile,’ the shirt can be washed safely and contains enough electrode sensors to take an ECG reading over an extended period of time.
Swiss advanced textile company Schoeller Textil AG has developed a fabric that can carry various medical treatments and deliver them through the wearer’s skin. Using advanced molecular engineering that causes the embedded medicine (or virtually any chemical agent) to release onto the skin when in proximity to warmth and vibration, the potential of this technology is wide-ranging, from odor control and skin health to cosmetic and anti-aging purposes. And given the textile’s design, the iLoad system is able to be reloaded with new medications after each wash.
The Somnus Sleep Shirt from Nyx monitors and records sleep activity. In an effort to capture sleep data while a wearer is most comfortable, which ensures the most accurate results, the developers have designed the shirts with state-of-art, ultra thin respiration sensors from MIT research labs. The sensors, made from common t-shirt vinyl, are embedded directly into the surface of the material. A tiny SleepLogger device has been fitted a small pocket located at the bottom of the shirt to power the sensors, recording and storing the equivalent of 5 nights worth of sleep data. Data is automatically collected when the device is connected to the shirt, and is securely uploaded to the research website during charge cycles.
Unnamed AT&T Project
US telecommunications firm AT&T is branching out from phones and wifi to create a biometric shirt similar to the E39 shirts Zephyr designed with Under Armour (pictured above). Taking advantage of a growing consumer interest in ‘e-wellness,’ AT&T is developing garments that record heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. What makes the project unique is the modular nature of the system, which envisions a detachable, central recording device that works across garments to automatically record data from an associated set of sensors. The product has also been designed to upload a wearer’s data whenever it’s within range of a wifi network, creating a seamless user experience for individuals of any level or interest.
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