Researchers in Canada have created a smart T-shirt that monitors the wearer’s respiratory rate in real time. The innovation paves the way for clothing that could be used to diagnose respiratory illnesses or monitor people suffering from asthma, sleep apnoea, or COPD.
The key to the smart T-shirt is an antenna sewn in at chest level. “The antenna does double duty, sensing and transmitting the signals created by respiratory movements,” explained Prof Younes Messaddeq, who led the project. “The data can be sent to the user’s smartphone or a nearby computer.”
As the wearer breathes in, the smart fibre senses the increase in thorax circumference and the lung volume. “These changes modify some of the resonant frequency of the antenna. That’s why the T-shirt doesn’t need to be tight or in direct contact with the wearer’s skin. The oscillations that occur with each breath are enough for the fibre to sense the user’s respiratory rate.”
“Our tests show that the data captured by the shirt is reliable, whether the user is lying down, sitting, standing, or moving around,” Prof Messaddeq said.