This smartphone-powered suit can track body temperature, posture
Updated 18:26, 02-Dec-2020
By Aliyah Sahni

Researchers in Singapore have created a "smart suit" that can track various health parameters across the body in real time.

The team at the National University of Singapore believes their suit can help athletes monitor and improve their performance or allow medical professionals to treat patients with spinal injuries.

"The challenge with most wearables today is that we measure what happens at a particular place in your body," said John Ho, assistant professor at the Institute for Health Innovation & Technology of the National University of Singapore. "This could be a wrist, this could be on a chest, that's the one place where we are able to measure what happens. So the big motivation of our project was to capture that dynamic behavior of your body as you go through your daily life in sort of a distributed way."

Sensors are wirelessly connected by web-like patterns of conductive thread sewn into the suit. The threads enable communication between the smartphone and sensors using near-field communication (NFC). The custom-made NFC sensor doesn't need batteries to stay functional.

"We have created clothing that is NFC-compatible. By holding your phone near patterns on your clothing, we are able to take that signal and relay it across your body," Ho told CGTN. "The key is to embroider a special kind of thread, a conductive thread. But we don't use them as just wires, they are used as sort of antennas and can actually respond to near-field signals and transfer them to a distant point."

The smart suit can potentially enable round-the-clock monitoring of athletes or the vitals of patients in hospitals.

"For athletes, important things to measure would include motion, how the body is moving. Also force, how much force you are outputting with each motion," Ho said. "Another area we are interested in exploring is healthcare. Can we have smart hospital gowns that measure the health of the patients as they are passing through our healthcare system?"

Other applications include clinical diagnosis of spinal issues, rehabilitation and injury management.

"There are many challenges right now when it comes to [diagnosing] lower back pain. Many scientists believe that a lot of these causes are actually just daily motion, daily behavior, just bad spinal posture as you go through your day," Ho explained. "How can we assess that? We're imagining clothing that could actually do that. Clothing that could have sensors placed along your back, along your spine to measure the posture as you go through your daily life and this could be useful for scientific purposes."