TrendThe day of smart garments nears

Published 5 July 2007

Embedding monitoring devices and transmitters in garments would allow for continuous monitroing of one’s vital signs and location

What if one wore a smart shirt, T-shirt, or suit embedded with tiny electronics that can monitor one’s heart or respiratory function wirelessly? What if first responders, police, firemen, and soldiers were to were such smart garments, continuosuly reporting back to base details of their physical condition during battle or rescue mission and, if buried under a collapsed building, report their location to rescuers? Researchers from the University of South Australia have been using garment integrated electronic technology to develop smart garments which, when placed on electronic hangers, enable monitored data to be downloaded in a heartbeat to a computer in your wardrobe, and then be recharged ready for wearing.

There is no need to worry about your heart skipping a beat while your garment is being cleaned, according to Professor Bruce Thomas, director of UniSA’s Wearable Computer Laboratory. “For continuous monitoring, you can take off one garment and put on another smart garment so, instead of having just one heart monitor, you can have a wardrobe of them,” Thomas said.

Thomas points out that his researchers were not the first to think of this technology, but “we’re the first worldwide to develop smart garment management technology that works,” he said. “The wardrobe has a touch screen on the outside and conductive metal bands spanning the hanging rail inside, with wires connecting it to a computer in the base of the wardrobe. When we place electronic hangers, each with their own ID and metal connection, on the rail, it detects the hangers and smart garments incorporating the conductive material and integrated electronics,” Thomas said. “Through this connection, the computer identifies, for example, that hanger 123 has coat 45 on it, which has stored heart monitoring data that needs to be downloaded and the hanger recharged,” he said.