A true ‘smart’ shirt

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A true ‘smart’ shirt

WEARABLE COMPUTING technology has been making waves over the past decade thanks to improved bandwidth and connectivity speeds, easy access to faster wireless networks, intelligent smartphones and a huge community of app developers who are dishing out apps by the dozens for myriad applications and functionalities.

By Prashant Vadgaonkar (Techtroniks)

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Published: Sun 20 Jul 2014, 1:16 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:18 PM

The early wearable tech products included wristbands such as Jawbone which would relay back to the wearer information about the key health parameters in real-time. Then there are also smart watches which track health vitals and of course now Google Glass which is like the height of wearable computing paradigm. But the inherent issue with all these is having to actually wear, carry and take care of such a device since it is essentially a separate accessory.

So immaterial of the benefits it may provide to the user the device becomes a liability. But now, a Canadian company has come up with clothing which one can use in day-to-day life, which is actually a wearable device! Yes, a shirt made of a special fabric which can be worn anywhere be it on in office or home, and has the ability to relay vital health statistics to the user.

Montreal based OMSignal has devised a special shirt which has tiny electrodes weaved into the cloth material and is able to capture and relay to the wearer information such as breathing rate, heat rate and all such health vitals. The electrodes which are finely intertwined into the fabric, read and capture the breathing levels of the user and heartbeat rates. The signals get picked up by the electrodes which gets relayed and saved in a small gadget which is typically clipped into the pocket on the side of the shirt. This device also captures the body movements of the user and all the information is collated and transmitted to an iPhone app which displays details such as number of steps walked, calories expended and also capable of popping up the data of the users’ energy levels.

The shirts are of the compression garments variety — the type which are usually used by athletes and patients who are in need of enhanced circulation, with the electrodes closely clinging to the body. OMSignal’s co-founder Stephane Marceau believes that the shirt is in a better position to capture key vitals such as heartrate since the recording is happening at the place where it actually happens — that is, near the heart! Thus, the data captured will have higher accuracy and efficacy. Sliver based strands of the yarn are used to weave in the electrodes while the credi card-sized device collects activity information using the on-board magnetometer, gyroscope and accelerometer. The data is thereafter transmitted using low-energy Bluetooth to a cloud server which in turn returns the analysed results to the iPhone app.

The shirt is machine washable but is recommended to undergo air drying or manual drying only. Though some of the applications of the garment are obvious, one would expect them to evolve further to be more intelligent to be able to control devices based on the user’s physical conditions and health parameters.

OMsignal’s shirt along with the supplemental device is expected to cost about $240 and the deliveries are in supposed to commence end of summer 2014. Users can purchase additional shirt for just $100. The shirts are initially being launched for men and the company expects to launch women’s clothing later in Fall 2014, since men are less fastidious about fashion.


What’s being served?

WE HAVE some good news for all calorie conscious buffs — if you would like to know how much calories you are likely to ingest from your plateful of food there is now help around the corner.

Research Scientist Matt Webster and team from Diagnostics Imaging and Biomedical technologies division of GE Research have designed a prototype of a device which simply “looks” at what’s on the plate and pops up the calories being served! The device, which is expected to be included in microwave oven, will simply return the calorie count as you heat the food.

Webster’s research was based on studies of nutritional statistics which inferred that calorie count is achievable using fat and water content from pre-weighed food helpings while calories from other food ingredients such as proteins or sugar can be mathematically derived by simply deducting water and fat weight from the total weight.

The device was designed to send low–energy microwaves through measured servings of food. On account of the fat and content in the food, the waves’ characteristics get altered and is then captured and analysed by the device. Experiments carried out on the pilot device showed a mere 10 per cent variance in results with those from conventional calorie counters.

For now, the current version of device displays calorie count of blended foods only but a newer version is not far away which would throw back calorie count from assorted food items too!


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