Canadian researchers have made a smart t-shirt that monitors the wearer’s breathing while wearing it. This new development has many potential medical and athletic applications. The smart t-shirt design is by Amine Miled, an associate professor at the electrical and computer engineering department at Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada, and his team. Miled’s design conforms to the body without sacrificing mobility.
“We believe that such technology will be very useful in hospitals, to reduce opioid overdose deaths, and prevent active people from [overexertion],” Miled told Spectrum. Of course, the Canadian research team isn’t the only entity looking into smart clothes. The market for smart shoes, which include features like step counts, is likely to grow exponentially over the next few years. Likewise other wearables, such as the FitBit are still in high demand. There is even speculation that the future of wearables will involve under the skin implants.
Smart T-Shirt: how It Works
Miled’s team implants a network of Bluetooth-enabled spiral antennas within the shirt’s fabric. Said antennas contort slightly when the wearer breaths. Wireless sensors then detect the antenna deformations and transmit the data for analysis. Researchers determine breathing patterns from the data the smart shirt collects.
Researchers were able to conduct tests using volunteers. The results were published in a study on December 28, 2021. According to the study, different test subjects have vastly varying breathing patterns. For instance, some individuals use their stomach rather than their chest when breathing. Researchers gleaned that gender seems to affect a person’s breathing pattern.
“We anticipated this challenge because the body of each person is unique,” Miled told Spectrum, “To account for this, the smart shirt was designed so that it can “pick” which of its six sensors—distributed across the upper and lower torso, either to the right, left, or center—is most accurate for monitoring the breathing of the individual wearer. When first put on, the shirt completes a scan of its sensors to determine which one is best suited for the wearer given their unique breathing patterns.” The smart T-shirt is even capable of detecting sleep apnea.
Several companies have shown interest in Miled’s smart t-shirt technology. However, the product is not ready for commercial use. Miled went on to say, “The next step that is ongoing now is to compare our results with other approaches…and with the help of doctors, try to extract some [breathing] profiles of some common disorders.”