MIT Develops Smart Shirt That Can Monitor Heart Rate, Temperature and Other Vital Signs

MIT smart shirt for vital signs
Image: MIT News

MIT engineers have developed a way to incorporate tiny electronic sensors into stretchy fabrics, allowing them to create shirts or other clothing items that could be used to monitor vital signs such as temperature, respiration, and heart rate. Other vital signs can be added by utilizing additional sensor types.

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Lead author of the study was MIT graduate student Irmandy Wicaksono. It was published in the journal npg Flexible Electronics.

The sensor-embedded garments, which are machine washable, can be customized to fit close to the body of the person wearing them. The researchers envision that this type of sensing could be used for monitoring people who are ill, either at home or in the hospital, as well as athletes or astronauts, reports MIT.

“We can have any commercially available electronic parts or custom lab-made electronics embedded within the textiles that we wear every day, creating conformable garments,” says senior author of the study Canan Dagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT. “These are customizable, so we can make garments for anyone who needs to have some physical data from their body like temperature, respiration rate, and so forth.”

MIT smart shirt for vital signs
Image: MIT News

For this study, the researchers designed a prototype shirt with 30 temperature sensors and an accelerometer that can measure the wearer’s movement, heart rate, and breathing rate. The garment can then transmit this data wirelessly to a smartphone.

The fabric, a polyester blend, was chosen for its moisture-wicking properties and its ability to conform to the skin, similar to compression shirts worn during exercise, the MIT report said.

“From the outside, it looks like a normal T-shirt, but from the inside, you can see the electronic parts which are touching your skin,” Dagdeviren says. “It compresses on your body, and the active parts of the sensors are exposed to the skin.”

The researchers tested their prototype shirts as wearers exercised at the gym, allowing them to monitor changes in temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate.

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The smart shirts could be used for remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, where doctors monitor patients remotely while patients remain at home.

“You don’t need to go to the doctor or do a video call,” Dagdeviren says. “Through this kind of data collection, I think doctors can make better assessments and help their patients in a better way.”

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Cathy Russey () is Online Editor at WT | Wearable Technologies and specialized in writing about the latest medical wearables and enabling technologies on the market. Cathy can be contacted at info(at)wearable-technologies.com.