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Sensor shirt keeps track of health

It is increasingly important for doctors to have the correct data on which to base their judgements. RISE is helping to develop a shirt that can aid stroke, epilepsy and Parkinson’s patients. “The objectives are that patients should feel that they are receiving support, and to provide neurologists with a better basis for making judgements,” says Jan Wipenmyr, sensor expert at RISE.

Sensors in clothing, or wearables as they are known, have been a hot topic over recent years. However, in many cases questions have been raised about the quality of data and the practical aspects. In the current WearITmed project, RISE, together with Sahlgrenska University Hospital and the University of Borås, has developed a shirt containing a redundant sensor system and electronics that can handle a 40°C programme in a domestic washing machine.

“This is one of the coolest aspects of the project; that we have created something wearable. The shirt is ready and we have tested it in studies,” says Jan Wipenmyr, displaying the second-generation prototype garment created in the Project.

Sensors measure movement and pulse

The black shirt has sensors on the two forearms and beneath the ribcage. These sensors measure movement and pulse. Given the precision of the system, studies are underway to see if it might also be possible to measure heart rate variability (how rhythmic the wearer’s pulse is) and variations in blood pressure by measuring the interval between pulse signals from the various sensors (Pulse Transit Time or PTT).

“It is hoped that the next generation of shirt will even be able to measure sweating and blood acidity. That shirt should be ready for patient trials in the spring,” says Jan Wipenmyr.

Crossing expertises for new solutions

The project is a true collaboration, with all parties contributing their own unique expertise. RISE brings with it expertise in sensors, AI, data processing, and has also identified solutions for washable electronics and examined placing sensors directly in textile fibres, the University of Borås worked on the shirt’s design and fabric, while Sahlgrenska was responsible for clinical studies and providing input from both doctors and patients.

“You might ask yourself why a shirt is necessary – surely there are other ways to measure pulse or movement? One of the advantages of a fitted garment is that we can be sure that the sensors are correctly situated and in the same place everyday. It has also become apparent from our focus group that patients don’t see the shirt as some form of stigma; something that can be the case when going about with two or three visible sensor systems. Not to mention the difference it makes to be able to obtain precise measurements in their own home, rather than being confined to hospital for a couple of weeks,” says Jan Wipenmyr.

WearITmed is a five-year project and will run until 2019. In addition to developing the shirts, a number of scientific articles have also been published.

“The exciting thing now, as the project approaches the finish line, is what the future will bring. Will it be possible to find partners willing to take it further and onto the market?, wonders Jan Wipenmyr.


Facts: WearITmed

The project is in progress from 2015-2019

Participants: RISE, Sahlgrenska, University of Borås

Objectives:

  • To measure clinically-relevant patterns of movement
  • To define what other physiological variables are important to measure with the various neurological conditions
  • To develop measurement systems that facilitate continuous measurement outside of hospital
  • To thereby improve diagnostics, monitor the course of disease and make it possible to customise treatment