Dress Smart: This T-Shirt Senses Breathing Problems

Prototype garment provides wireless, real-time monitoring of a wearer’s respiratory patterns

2 min read
Close up of a person wearing dark long sleeved shirt. Multiple blue sensors and wires cover it.

This new smart T-shirt has thin antennas incorporated in the cloth, which detect deformations in the antennas as the user breathes in and out.

Université Laval

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Clothes keep us warm, fashionable, and modest, but why stop there? A group of researchers in Canada has devised another use for clothing—they created a new smart T-shirt that can monitor the breathing of the person wearing it, which could be useful for a wide range of medical and athletic applications, among others.

Using the shirt to monitor a person’s vital signs would be advantageous for a number of reasons, including its ability to conform to different body types without restricting mobility or sacrificing comfort.

“We believe that such technology will be very useful in hospitals, to reduce opioid overdose deaths, and prevent active people from [overexertion],” says Amine Miled, an associate professor at the department of electrical and computer engineering at Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada.

The smart shirt designed by his team, including colleagues Marc-André Dugas and Younès Messaddeq, involves a network of thin, spiral antennas with Bluetooth capabilities embedded within the cloth. As the person wearing the shirt breathes in and out, the antennas deform slightly. A network of wireless sensors detect the deformations, and the data is transmitted wirelessly to a base station for analysis. In this way, a person’s breathing pattern can be measured and monitored.

The researchers tested their smart shirt in volunteers, and describe the results in a study published 28 December 2021 in IEEE Sensors Journal.

Through these experiments, it quickly became clear that people have vastly different breathing patterns, and especially among the sexes. For example, some people were more likely to breathe using their belly rather than their chest.

“We anticipated this challenge because the body of each person is unique,” says Miled. To account for this, the smart shirt was designed so that it can “pick” which of its six sensors—distributed across the upper and lower torso, either to the right, left, or center—is most accurate for monitoring the breathing of the individual wearer. When first put on, the shirt completes a scan of its sensors to determine which one is best suited for the wearer given their unique breathing patterns.

Miled says several companies have expressed interest in this tech, but some additional steps are needed before commercialization.

“The next step that is ongoing now is to compare our results with other approaches…and with the help of doctors, try to extract some [breathing] profiles of some common disorders,” says Miled, noting that the smart T-shirt is already able to detect sleep apnea. “We are also able to detect a significant change in breathing amplitude, [as well as] inspiration and expiration.”

The Conversation (0)

Europe Expands Virtual Borders To Thwart Migrants

Our investigation reveals that Europe is turning to remote sensing to detect seafaring migrants so African countries can pull them back

14 min read
A photo of a number of people sitting in a inflatable boat on the water with a patrol ship in the background.

Migrants in a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey, on 28 February 2020.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

It was after midnight in the Maltese search-and-rescue zone of the Mediterranean when a rubber boat originating from Libya carrying dozens of migrants encountered a hulking cargo ship from Madeira and a European military aircraft. The ship’s captain stopped the engines, and the aircraft flashed its lights at the rubber boat. But neither the ship nor the aircraft came to the rescue. Instead, Maltese authorities told the ship’s captain to wait for vessels from Malta to pick up the migrants. By the time those boats arrived, three migrants had drowned trying to swim to the idle ship.

The private, Malta-based vessels picked up the survivors, steamed about 237 kilometers south, and handed over the migrants to authorities in Libya, which was and is in the midst of a civil war, rather than return to Malta, 160 km away. Five more migrants died on the southward journey. By delivering the migrants there, the masters of the Maltese vessels, and perhaps the European rescue authorities involved, may have violated the international law of the sea, which requires ship masters to return people they rescue to a safe port. Instead, migrants returned to Libya over the last decade have reported enslavement, physical abuse, extortion, and murders while they try to cross the Mediterranean.

If it were legal to deliver rescued migrants to Libya, it would be as cheap as sending rescue boats a few extra kilometers south instead of east. But over the last few years, Europe’s maritime military patrols have conducted fewer and fewer sea rescue operations, while adding crewed and uncrewed aerial patrols and investing in remote-sensing technology to create expanded virtual borders to stop migrants before they get near a physical border.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":["29177566"]}