Sensors able to provide early detection of certain illnesses or health issues already exist, but they are currently rather cumbersome, invasive, or impractical.
The sensors for monitoring vital signs, such as body temperature, heart rate or respiratory rate developed by the researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are woven directly into strategic points of machine-washable garments that look like any other normal item of clothing and can be adapted to the patient’s morphology.
Stretchy, machine-washable clothing
The electronic sensors are made up of long flexible strips wrapped in epoxy resin, which are then woven into narrow channels in the fabric. The channels have small openings enabling the sensors to be exposed to the skin. During the research phase, the researchers designed a prototype long-sleeved T-shirt fitted with 30 temperature sensors and an accelerometer used to measure the wearer’s movement, heart rate and respiratory rate. The T-shirt, christened “E-TeCS”, can transmit the medical data collected and stored to a smartphone. The fabric used is a blend of polyester with moisture wicking and heat retention properties, much like that used in the compression shirts worn while exercising. “It compresses your body and the active parts of the sensors are exposed to the skin”. These garments can be washed with the integrated sensors, and the sensors can also be removed and transferred to another garment”.
For remote medical monitoring
There are many potential uses for this new generation of connected clothing: it could enable physicians to monitor their patients remotely and be useful for personalized telemedicine. It could also be used to monitor athletes’ or astronauts’ health.