JUL 17, 2019 6:59 AM PDT

'Smart Textiles' Significantly Boost Connectivity Between Wearable Sensors

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

In recent years, the focus on electronics was towards the development of sensors, displays and smart devices that work to seamlessly integrate onto the human body. Many of these wearable devices are connected to the user’s smart phone and work to transmit data through Wi-Fi signals. However, as consumers increase their usage of wearable devices—there is also an increasing need of innovation to advance data transmission.

Now, researchers working on better connectivity methods for ‘smart textiles’ have developed an innovative way for wearable devices to interconnect. Ten years in the making, the method is known as the ‘wireless body sensor network’ and allows a 1,000 times stronger data transmission than conventional technologies—which also means a dramatic improvement in battery life.

“This innovation allows for the perfect transmission of data between devices at power levels that are 1,000 times reduced. Or, alternatively, these metamaterial textiles could boost the received signal by 1,000 times which could give you dramatically higher data rates for the same power,” says Assistant Professor John Ho, from the Institute for Health Innovation & Technology (NUS iHealthtech) and NUS Engineering.

Credit: NUS.EDU, From left: PhD student Mr Tian Xi, Research Fellow Dr Lee Pui Mun and Assistant Professor John Ho, together with seven NUS researchers, took a year to develop the 'smart' textiles

Published on the cover of Nature Electronics, the breakthrough development improves efficiency and holds future applications in health monitoring, medical interventions and advancing human–machine interfaces.

“We envision that endowing athletic wear, medical clothing and other apparel with such advanced electromagnetic capabilities can enhance our ability to perceive and interact with the world around us,” says Assistant Professor Ho.

The enhancement of regular clothing with metamaterials--which are essentially conductive textiles—creates ‘surface waves’ that can glide wirelessly around the body on the clothes. Not only better efficiency, but the device also offers better privacy than current conventional methods.

Watch this video below to learn more:

“We started with a specific metamaterial that was both flat and could support surface waves. We had to redesign the structure so that it could work at the frequencies used for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, perform well even when close to the human body, and could be mass produced by cutting sheets of conductive textile,” Assistant Professor Ho explained.

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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