These days, wearable technology and health are becoming increasingly interconnected, particularly as technology is being created to enhance and improve quality of life and well-being. Nevertheless, we are yet to see this kind of health monitoring wearable tech make its way into clothing. A Canadian university, however, may be changing that.

 

Researchers at Université Laval’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and Centre for Optics, Photonics, and Lasers may have developed a new way to incorporate into textiles, the technology present in many health monitoring gadgets. This in turn has the potential to create what will essentially be “smart” clothing — aka smart clothing — that can monitor health information including glucose levels, brain activity, movements, and heart rhythm and then transmit that medical information via wireless networks.

 

The team’s development was born out of their use of superimposition of multiple layers of copper, polymers, glass, and silver to create a fabric which could simultaneously act as a sensor and an antenna. Importantly, while the performance and signal quality has been described as comparable to commercial antennas, consideration has also been given to the durability and versatility of the fiber, making it easy to be woven with other major clothing materials such as cotton or wool.

 

The textile fiber which has been developed by the team of researchers has approximately the same dimensions as a strand of hair (ici.radio-canada.ca/)

The textile fiber which has been developed by the team of researchers has approximately the same dimensions as a strand of hair (ici.radio-canada.ca/)

Naturally with any technology of this nature, there are important factors to consider, and the researchers at Université Laval have noted that there is still much to do before the technology can be deemed complete. Considerations such as power supply, connection to a wireless network, and resistance to laundry detergents are all important in preparing the smart textile for commercialization. While these kinks have not been entirely worked out as of yet, researchers are confident in the technology’s future and have described test results thus far as promising.

 

What smart textiles and clothing could contribute to modern medicine and healthcare is invaluable. As the researchers describe it, the development can help monitor individuals who suffer from chronic diseases, elderly individuals who live alone, and individuals working in professions which pose potential health hazards, such as firemen or police officers.

 

However, the technology is significant on a whole different level, as well; a level which considers conceptuality as opposed to practicality and utility. The development of smart textiles transfers an increasingly popular and useful reality – wearable health-monitoring technology – into a technology which can be incorporated into the items which are worn regularly without consideration – clothing.

 

Indeed, wearable technology for the purposes of monitoring health is hardly new (though the level of comprehensive health monitoring the textiles may be expected to perform seems higher than any current gadgets); yet, we find that the way in which the new development has approached the idea is novel.

 

Wearable technology in the form of clothing is so simple in concept that it hardly seems like an innovative idea. Yet, it has proven rather complicated in execution, requiring special considerations such that wearable tech — in the form of wristbands and similar hardware — do not. This is is what makes the development of smart textiles not only innovative, but revolutionary.

 

What do you think about the possibility of clothing being the next big thing in wearable technology? Share your comments below or tweet me @tamarahoumi