MedGizmo - MedGizmo: Smart Textiles in Healthcare – Part 1
04.02.2016, 21:21   MedGizmo

MedGizmo: Smart Textiles in Healthcare – Part 1

In our history, MedGizmo turned attention to Smart Textiles. We have published aggregated reports on the subject. However, all these are of a broad character – focusing on the subject in general. In these series of posts, we are trying to have a look at Healthcare Applications.

Here is a reference to our earlier posts:
Smart textiles appeared in early 1990s, influenced by military research and wearable technology in general. This is a unique challenge – since they are positioned on the cross border between different industries: electronics, sports, medical, etc.
European Union was one of the biggest developers of smart textile projects. From historical point of view the following presentation is worth to see:
European Projects in Smart Fabrics, Interactive Textiles: sharing Opportunities and Challenges
It describers these:
  • PROETEX: Protection e-Textiles: Micro-Nanostructured fibre systems for Emergency-Disaster Wear (1/02/2006 - 31/1/2010)
  • STELLA : Stretchable Electronics for Large Area Applications (1/1/2006 – 31/1/ 2010)
  • BIOTEX: Bio-Sensing Textiles to Support Health Management (1/7/2006-29/02/2008)
  • CONTEXT:  Contact less sensors for body monitoring incorporated in textiles (1/01/2006-30/6/2008)
  • MyHeart: Fighting cardio-vascular diseases by preventive lifestyle & early diagnosis (1/12/2003-30/8/2007)
  • OFSETH: Optical Fibre Sensors Embedded into technical Textile for Healthcare (1/3/2006- 30/9/2009)
  • MERMOTH : Medical Remote Monitoring of Clothes (2003-2006)

I encourage to download and read this voluminous report:
Smart Textiles and Wearable Technology – A study of smart textiles in fashion and clothing by Lena Berglin, The Swedish School of Textiles
This covers almost entire EU-projects in smart textiles and clothing over the last decades. Most of the supported projects are within the health monitoring area. Another type of projects at EU-level develop enabling technologies for smart textiles, for example stretchable electronics, integration of electronics in textiles, technologies that are necessary for the development of smart textiles applications.

While a lot of materials are existing on the Internet regarding fashion, dress and other similar smart textile applications, there is very little systematic description of healthcare use. Indeed, they provide information on a person and the environment. Professional analysis of such data may allow identifying health risks in the earliest possible phase. With this information there are ways to prevent incidents and accidents from happening (sending out an alert); in post-incident situations smart textiles may provide instant aid or call for help; they may also support and follow up the rehabilitation process.
One of the most astonishing factors is that smart textiles may be embedded into bedding, floor and wall covering, furniture, and other objects of environment - these also have medical applications.
However, as many experts point out the way to medical market is not so easy for smart textiles. As it is usually with all medical devices and gadgets, there exist lots of regulations and necessity to conduct extensive clinical trials. And after all these obstacles – there is one that is very difficult to overcome: medical practitioners need to be convinced about the value.

A few words about the market size. Historically, by application the biggest market for smart textiles is military and defense - that accounted for 28.7% in 2014
However, as per IDTech data,  Home & Lifestyle will have the biggest CAGR  in the nearest years
Researchandmarkets predicts that the market for smart textiles in the medical sector will become an $843 million by 2021. “Using smart clothing, patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart problems, will continuously and simply monitor their health and send updates to their physician, providing more useful data and avoiding office visits. Technology of this kind already exists in smart sports clothing and will be extended to medical applications as sensors become more accurate”

Major application areas in healthcare
  • Technology
  • Surgical materials & implants
  • Tissue engineering
  • Textile research for wound care and  hygienic applications
  • Prosthetics & orthotics
  • Diagnostic/monitoring/smart wearables
Recent developments in technology open up a number of healthcare applications that were not possible before:
  • Long-term or permanent contact without skin irritation.
  • Applications for children, in a discrete and careless way.
  • Applications for the elderly; discretion, comfort, and aesthetics are important
Sensorized Garments for Biomedical Monitoring: Design Issues by Giuseppe Andreoni  by Carlo Emilio Standoli and Paolo Perego has this nice graph that shows what biosignals can be measured from the human body. This actually the points for smart textiles too.
"We can distinguish mainly among bioelectric (ECG, EMG, EEG, EOG, ENG, and some others), thermal (temperature and its map on the body surface), mechanical (motion of body segments, pressure at the human surface interface), optical (SpO2 or NIRS measurements) or chemical (sweat composition, inhaled/exhaled air composition) signals (a simplified map is reported in Figure 2)"

One of the big players in the smart clothing world is Sensoria, the makers of a set of smart socks for runners. The washable socks can track your gait and running technique, and this week the company announced that it would be working with the brand Orthotics Holdings to create connected footwear for the elderly that can monitor and feedback to caregivers on their mobility, set for a 2016 launch.
Sensoria's line-up of products currently includes smart socks, a heart rate sensing bra and a biometric shirt for men
Sensoria believes that impactful change can be made through technology in intuitive ways. We have developed a technology platform comprising novel textile sensors, innovative electronics, mobile application with real-time alerting capabilities and a robust cloud infrastructure for data analysis.
The Sensoria sensors are skin safe and have been tested against multiple pH ranges. They are less than 1 mm in thickness, providing flexibility in form factor for a wide range of clinical applications.
  • Diabetic Foot Complications
  • Fall Detection and Prevention
  • Prosthetics
  • Rehabilitation

This concludes the first Part of the Post. In the next posts we will have a look at some practical solutions for healthcare applications.
04.02.2016, 21:21   MedGizmo
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