Smart Fabrics Are Emerging As A New Form Of Wearables

Smart Fabrics Are The New Form Of Wearables
Hexoskin

The rising popularity of wearables is making these devices evolve into different forms. From fitness trackers, smartwatches, and smart glasses, a new form of wearables is emerging, and it is called IoT fabrics or smart fabrics. These fabrics can be used to create clothing to monitor our vital signs.

As the Internet of Things, or IoT, continues to expand exponentially, wearables have emerged as the latest IoT frontier because of their enticing potential applications, reports EET India.

Benefits of IoT fabrics

Sensor-embedded smart fabrics make wearables least intrusive. These smart fabrics can be used to make shirts, jackets, pants, socks, or even shoes. These smart clothes can be folded and stretched to fit the body. Data collected from the wearer’s body include heart rate, blood oxygen level, blood glucose level, blood pressure, body temperature, and activity.

Read more Hexoskin Smart Shirt Accurately Measures Breathing, Could be Useful for Monitoring COPD

Smart fabrics can also be used to track the elderly, hospital patients, and kids. People suffering from dementia can wear sensor-embedded clothes, where a GPS tracker can send an alert to their loved ones when the patient has wandered off. The same technology can be used by teens to have their parents monitor their moves. Wearables like these can also be used in high-risk settings, such as construction sites or mountaineering expeditions, where everyone’s whereabouts must be accounted for.

Shunt system to monitor Hydrocephalus

Medtech startup Rhaeos has made developed a wearable for noninvasive monitoring of patients suffering from an accumulation of brain fluids, known as hydrocephalus. Arising from a collaboration between materials scientists and neurological surgeons at Northwestern University, the company has developed a noninvasive thermal sensor for use in the monitoring of ventricular shunt function. The Band-Aid-like sensor measures a characteristic heat signature if the shunt is working and the excess cerebral spinal fluid is draining properly. On the other hand, if the shunt malfunctions and there’s no flow, the sensor is able to quickly indicate that via heat flow measurements.

A baby sleeping on a crib
The Nanit Plus camera sees everything happening in and around the crib, with stunning clarity. And with Breathing Wear, that same camera can monitor your baby’s breathing motion, simply by reading the customized paterns on the fabric. (Image: Nanit)

Preventing sudden infant death syndrome

Sudden infant death syndrome is a new parent’s nightmare. The CDC reported 3,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths in 2017. It’s helpful to learn about newborn breathing to keep you informed and take the best care of your little one.

Nanit, an American tech start-up that develops baby monitor devices connected through its mobile app, released new infant clothing that do not need sensors or other forms of embedded electronics. Dubbed Breathing Wear, the infant outfit works with Nanit’s smart camera to monitor the baby’s breathing. The system provides insights into the baby’s breathing by allowing the camera to read the clothing’s patterns. An unobtrusive camera, placed above the crib, interprets the customized pattern on the baby’s clothing item and translates that into a breathing pattern. This information is then sent to the parent’s smartphone or tablet.

Designing challenges

In addition to being flexible and easy-to-use, smart fabrics need to be hardy, accurate, and self-sufficient.

  • To endure everyday wear and tear experienced by the user, the smart fabric needs to be toughened to stay intact and functional as well as machine-washable.
  • As the wear and tear may affect the accuracy of the data collected, installing different types of sensors or multiple sensors will help ensure data accuracy.
  • Small and unobtrusive sensors. Sensors must be small and unobtrusive so that they do not affect the fabric’s texture. However, the sensors must be able to collect and transfer data continuously.
  • Energy harvesting. The continuous power supply is crucial for smart clothes to perform properly. Flexible batteries used in smart clothes need constant charging. To eliminate the need for charging, much research is going into energy harvesting from body heat and motion or vibration.

Read more Smart Clothes to Contribute Over $11 Bn to Fitness Wearable Revenue by 2025, Says Juniper Research

The future of wearables

The future of smart fabrics is brighter than ever. Smart clothes are headed to the forefront of wearable technology. Smart clothes will continue to evolve and eliminate the need for smartwatches, smart rings, and other types of health-monitoring wearables.

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Sam Draper () is Online Editor at WT | Wearable Technologies specialized in the field of sports and fitness but also passionated about any new lifestyle gadget on the market. Sam can be contacted at press(at)wearable-technologies.com.