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"Novel Pressure sensors" clothing monitors pulse, breathing, blood pressure

“Novel Pressure sensors” clothing monitors pulse, breathing, blood pressure

“Novel Pressure sensors” clothing monitors pulse, breathing, blood pressure

Scientists have developed sensors that can detect vital signs hidden in clothing. You imagine that the technology in hospitals or nursing homes can help.

 In the future, sensors sewn into clothing could monitor heart rate or blood pressure in the longer term. Researchers led by Xiaonan Hui from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, presented such a method in the journal Nature Electronics. They use so-called RFID chips, which are used millions of times in other areas. The chips should also survive the cleaning in the washing machine.

Example:

 the technique could be used in hospitals or nursing homes. In each room antennas should be attached, which receive the signals of the radio chips. “Our system is capable of monitoring the values of several people at the same time,” the researchers write.

Sewn into the breast pocket, the batteryless chips can help measure the respiratory rate. At the same time, the researchers could use the chips to track movements of the heart like a radar. About another chip on the wrist, which can be sewn into a cuff, the pulse can be determined. By combining the sensors one can estimate the blood pressure.

Conventional measuring instruments

Conventional measuring instruments are uncomfortable by the necessary skin contact, they partly disturbed sleep and restricted the freedom of movement of patients, emphasize the scientists. Her approach was inconspicuous and relatively cheap.

“If you put money into development, the approach has potential,” says physicist Wilhelm Stork from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, which was not involved in the study. He is researching similar possibilities: his team develops software that only analyzes the color changes of the skin via pictures from a video camera and determines the pulse. An advantage of the more complicated method of US colleagues is that it can also provide information about blood pressure.

Not without the patient’s consent

However, many privacy advocates and ethicists see it as critical as more and more health data is measured by sick and healthy people.

It is important that that affected know about the monitoring of their vital signs, emphasizes the theologian and ethicist Andreas Lob-Hüdepohl from the Catholic School of Social Welfare in Berlin. In nursing homes, for example, data may not be collected without consent. Without comprehensive information and consent there would be a “fundamental contradiction to the right to informational self-determination”, says Lob-Hudepohl.

 It is still unclear how reliable the data obtained with the radio chips are. So far, the systems have only been tested on individual subjects. For medical applications, the method is not yet sufficiently tested.

But the Karlsruhe scientist Stork sees further application possibilities. “The auto industry is interested in such processes,” he explains. Because if the on-board computer determines how awake or tense a driver is, he may possibly be able to prevent accidents by pointing to the tired driver.

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