Dress up with "smart clothes"who can continuously monitor temperature, heart rate and other vital signs, is closer than we think. A research group of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) They have analyzed the brilliant development of this type of technology.
In an article published in the magazine 'Matter', members of the research group Fibers @ MIT have established a detailed insight into how the field of advanced fibers and fabrics, which is growing rapidly, could transform many aspects of our lives. This team is developing fibers and fabrics with advanced computational properties and that, apart from "monitoring" our physical state, can warn us, early, of possible diseases or other health problems.
As SciTechDaily tells us, Gabriel Loke member of the research group Fibers @ MIT, explains that this type of "smart clothing" could serve to detect pandemics, like the one we are suffering with the Covid-19, in advance. "Current approaches to symptom-based testing are lagging indicators and can be compared to driving with the rearview mirror alone. So how do we create systems that are predictive, prospective, and can deliver leading indicators? What if you had a way to access your vital signs continuously?Loke wonders. "No human-made object is more ubiquitous or exposed to more vital data than clothes we all wear. Wouldn't it be great if we could teach our fabrics to feel, store, analyze, extract and communicate this potentially useful information? "
In his view, single-strand fiber capabilities will rapidly advance over time through new material designs and manufacturing approaches scalable fiber. Subsequently, a synergistic assembly of these fibers into a uniquely positioned fabric to capture, store and process large amounts of data released by our bodies. Once this is done, they must be developed artificially smart fabrics, where machine learning algorithms, specially designed and programmed in the tissues, can discover and obtain new perspectives on hidden body patterns. Eventually those tissues become Sophisticated platforms for value-added services serving a large population.
"In the future, computational tissues will be constantly updated with new functions and capabilities, like our computers"
According to the researchers, in this process it is key that the fibers are made of multiple materials, precisely arranged within a single fiber cross section to produce devices with various functionalities. The field of multimaterial fibers is young, relative to that of thin film technology for microchip devices, but now a great growth in the number of functions that a fiber can exhibit.
For example, in recent years, the manufacturing method called thermal fiber drawing has led to a variety of combinations of materials and functions, such as heart rate monitoring and optical communication. "We imagine a future where computational tissues will be constantly updated with new functions and capabilities, similar to how we are updating the software on our computers. "
According to Loke, as has happened with the evolution of personal computing, there are great opportunities for startups in this space. "I anticipate that fibers would enter the digital world, with an entry and exit door, as modern computers have, which represents the first of many steps towards achieving full computing capabilities in fibers and fabrics"
For these "smart clothes", the most significant short-term step will be developing fabric architectures that allow fibers to communicate with each other preserving the conventional qualities of the fabrics and, later, the collecting huge amounts of body data to power artificial intelligence. For this reason, according to Loke, "it is necessary that the sensors in the fabrics are seamless and as resistant as possible so that they can be Used for a long time"And do a great job of" improving the flexibility, ease of washing, and power requirements of fiber sensors. "