View Full Version : Sensor bra measures vitals

12-19-2005, 06:41 AM
New technology might have implications for the military, athletes and the medical field.

By Frank Greve

WASHINGTON A new sports bra that counts heartbeats is causing a Christmas stir.

The bra, introduced this week, is the first consumer product to be based on an electronic interaction between a textile and its wearer. A special conductive fabric in the chest band picks up the heart's electrical pulse and radios it to a digital readout wristwatch via a tiny transmitter in the bra.

There's much excitement in fabrics and electronics about a sports bra with a sweatband that counts heartbearts. Some analysts predict that 'smart fabrics' will change the world as dramatically as the Internet.

Such "smart fabrics" are the next big thing in so many fields that some analysts predict that they'll change the world as dramatically as the Internet did.

"The applications are limitless, and they're for everybody," said Spyros Photopoulos, an analyst at Venture Development Corp., a technology market research firm in Natick, Mass. According to Photopoulos, hundreds of companies are chasing the potential of miniaturized electronics that people can wear.

Save money, lives

A medical application for a smart shirt that monitors heart rate and respiration continuously with the help of sensors and wiring woven into its fabric already has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The shirt, made by VivoMetrics of Ventura, Calif., is used mainly to unobtrusively monitor patients with a respiratory disturbance called sleep apnea.

A future variant worn by chronically ill patients at home could extend their lives by enabling doctors to better monitor their health and to intervene more quickly when trouble arises. Robert Litan, a public policy economist, estimated earlier this month that monitoring 4 million chronically ill Medicare patients better at home could save $30 billion a year in hospital, emergency room and doctor costs.

Many researchers expect the Pentagon to back the development of smart fabrics, much as it did for computers and the Internet. The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which the Army launched in 2002 with $50 million, is developing battlefield garb that would be woven with miniaturized electronics that would report a soldier's location and vital signs to commanders and medics.

Aid on the battlefield

Fast, point-of-need medical treatment is the vision. Sensors in the uniform would detect fractures, uncontrolled bleeding or the soldier's collapse, helping medics treat first those who need help the most. In the more distant future, the sensors could trigger the battle garb's synthetic polymers, substances that alter their molecular shape when magnetized, heated, shocked or impacted. The polymers' new forms would stiffen, tighten or pulse the fabric to provide the injured soldier with a splint, tourniquet or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

For now, industrial clients are keen simply for fabrics that respond to temperature changes, according to Julie Case, technical services director at Industrial Fabrics Association International in Roseville, Minn. While some combinations of computers and fabrics "sound a little 'Star Trek'-y," she said, the association's members are looking for products such as pipe wraps whose insulating properties adjust to temperature changes or suits for firefighters that do the same. Also on the wish list are fabrics that kill germs or improve protection for the wearer when sensors in them detect toxic chemicals.

For savvy athletes

The sports bra, made by Textronics Inc., of Wilmington, Del., is a pioneer among consumer applications, analyst Photopoulos said. Its main innovation is the conductive fabric. The wrist monitors are sold separately. So is the transmitter, which is the size of a small matchbox and uses radio waves to relay the impulses to the monitor. The transmitter snaps into a pocket in the front of the bra and out for machine washing.

Textronics CEO Stacey Burr said her firm and others are working on sports apparel to monitor respiration, the proportion of lung capacity used, length of stride and other indicators. The bra, transmitter and monitor are available online from www.NuMetrex.com (http://www.NuMetrex.com) and cost $115 to $145 as a set. The bra alone is $45. A T-shirt version for men is planned for next year.

Women who exercise tend to be young, gizmo-savvy consumers with disposable income a promising market, in Burr's view. She sees another one down the road: golfers keen to improve their swings.

web page (http://www.statesman.com/business/content/business/stories/technology/12/16bizfocus.html)

12-19-2005, 08:21 AM
woo hoo, now all we need is some sort of low jack system that will feed that info into our I-pods to tell us if she's in the mood. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/wink.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/tongue.gif

12-19-2005, 01:29 PM
Say, this exciting new technology could be used by movie and tv censors. Have a target audience, as they watch the screen, wear hi-tech undergarments, and then the censors could tell if the film was merely appealing to the prurient interest of the group, and therefore should be banned, or was it bland enough to be approved by the Morality police.
Goes right along with these thoughts:
web page (http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=11171)