Smart Textiles and Electronic Clothing

By February 1, 2018 No Comments

Up to now, our discussions have focused mainly on smartwatches but in addition to the fitness and wellness sphere or ecosystem, the ability to transfer medical data is becoming progressively imperative with these devices. The ultimate aim of the physician is that they will be able to send a patient home with a wearable device that will be able to track their recovery. Up till now, the monitor companies have tried to place the medical parameters in the smartwatches – but why are we so fixated on the wrist? We all know that the wrist “is not the best position” for medical technology placement due to the vast lack of homogeneousness and diversity between people.

A story that I recently heard at a European meeting. A patient who was in the cardiac ward was recovering from a myocardial infarction. He was on his second day after being stented and was feeling basically well, but weak. He wanted to go to the bathroom so he took off the leads and wires that he was attached to. Three hours later, during the physician visit, he was nowhere to be seen. He was later found dead in the bathroom. No one noticed, no one knew. Remember this story as we will come back to it later!

So now we move to a new ecosystem of wearables called “smart clothing” or “dressables.”

When we talk about “smart clothing” we don’t mean part of a dress code or dressing nicely but rather clothes that are intelligent. The “dressable” ecosystem, consists of textiles (clothing) that is embeded with, or implanted with, sensors, smart chips and microelectronics.  “Smart clothing” is the new big trend in the medical and healthcare ecosystem but many problems are inherent in this new movement. Besides the obvious challenges inherent in creating smart textiles (they need to be comfortable, flexible, good looking (sexy), desirable, lack false alarms, electrodes must be inconspicuous and vigorous and most important, washable), the clothing must have the ability to bring benefit to the health system.

The challenge is to create electronic clothing that can be treated like other clothing, and companies need to start looking at the clothes that we wear every day of our lives. And if we want those smart clothes to be truly useful, they must be, medical or healthcare first, rather than technology first.

The aim of dressables or smart clothing is to be an adaptive part of the developing IOT ecosystem that is becoming part of our lives. By wearing “smart” clothing, we are increasing our medical consciousness and how it relates to the greater “me” being. While there is only a handful of dressables on the market today, most still are very “sport” or “wellness” oriented. There are endless varieties of “smart clothes” from running shirts to socks to jackets. Here are some of the best that I have culled:

Ralph Lauren (PoloTech) – Cutting-edge silver fibers woven directly into the fabric collect real-time stats: heart rate, breathing depth, steps taken, and calories burned.

Polar Team Pro Shirt – GPS and heart rate

Lumo Run – smart running shorts – cadence, ground contact time, pelvic rotation and stride length.

AIO smart sleeve – heart rate, sleep data, workout intensity, body temperature, air quality and UV rays.

Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket (Google’s Project Jacquard platform) – touch and gesture sensitive areas on the jacket sleeve to interact with a variety of services including music, map apps, dismiss phone calls with a swipe or double tap.

Hexoskin Smart – connected shirt with sensors – real time, heart rate, breathing and movement, sport intensity and recovery, calories burned, fatigue level and sleep quality.

Athos – training clothes – muscle effort, heart rate and breathing

Sensoria running socks 2.0 – pace, distance and time, running style

Samsung NFC suit – we don’t have much info on the suite and the Samsung Smart Clothes from their secret labs. The clothing is only sold in Korea and is very limited.

Heddoko – it measures human movement by offering an injury prevention solution with fully integrated sensors that capture your every move in 3D.

Smoozi D-Shirt – Microsensors are embedded all throughout the shirt measuring temperature, heart beat and heart rate, and the speed and intensity of your workouts.

OMsignal Biometric Smartwear – it has all of the fitness tracking abilities and can track heartbeat, breathing rate, breathing volume, movement (including steps and cadence), movement intensity, heart rate variability and calories burned.

What we have just witnessed is that most of the “smart clothes” ecosystem is associated with sport & wellness, and none are medical or healthcare related. None are FDA or CE cleared nor can be used in a true hospital setting nor in a homecare ambulatory home locale. The major advantage of dressables or “smart clothes” in a medical environment is the psychological perception that “I am not sick”, “I am normal” or “I am not stigmatized because of my situation.” To walk around unattached to wires, monitors and pouches is such an advantage that more people, in my opinion, will routinely accept home medical settings for rehabilitation and in many cases continue “out of hospital” care. Cutting the wires of medical grade devices are the key to the future of both “in hospital” and “out of hospital” care.

One product in the final stages of R & D is the Master Caution® from an Israeli start-up called HealthWatch. The “smart shirt” is the first and only 3-15 lead ECG smart digital garment that is CE/FDA-Cleared. It advocates a full management solution for the purpose of transforming healthcare, offering a digital health platform and virtual medical care intertwined with the Medical IOT. This non-lifestyle changing disruptive technology, based on wearable textile-electrodes and heart-sensing sensors and technologies, contains a myriad of accurate digital health diagnostic services including mobile cardiac telemetry, patient monitoring tele-health services and other services that allow for in-home medical services.  The Master Caution®’s continuous monitoring solutions assist clinicians in remotely monitoring their elderly or bed-ridden patients, while being alerted to cardiac events such as ischemia and arrhythmias in near real-time, securing personal health around-the-clock for improved patient safety.

What lesson can we learn from the story that I communicated earlier? If the patient was not wired up but still was able to transmit the information that he was in destress, his life may have been saved. Even if not, the hospital staff would have found him earlier. The fact is, that if patients both inside the hospital system and outside it, would be able to be monitored without the hassle of leads, I will bet my last dollar that many lives could be saved.

The “smart clothes” wearable market’s challenge now is to create devices that can offer useful data that will improve our lives. Truth being told, we don’t need more data, but rather astute and clever analysis and interpretation of this data. We cannot overwhelm the medical staff with reams of data but give it to them in a manner not only that is easy to read but within a platform that builds for them an AI hierarchy system. This new AI platform in conjunction with the IOT, is now allowing us to interact with other medical devices permitting us to monitor, scrutinize and improve patient’s lives in a respectful and stress-free fashion.

Harel Daniely

Author Harel Daniely

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