The rapid development of Internet of things (IoT) technology makes it possible for connecting various smart textiles together through the Internet and providing more data, says Pranil Sanjay Vora.
IoT is the Internet working of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as connected devices and smart devices), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. IoT allows objects to be sensed and/or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention. IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications.
For a textile engineer, the first thing that comes to the mind is that is it viable to apply in textiles and also to textile industry. Wearable technology, wearable’s, fashionable technology, wearable devices, tech togs, or fashion electronics are smart electronic devices (electronic device with micro controllers) that can be worn on the body as implant or accessories. The designs often incorporate practical functions and features.
Wearable devices such as activity trackers are a good example of IoT, since things such as electronics, software, sensors and connectivity are effectors that enable objects to exchange data through internet with a manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices, without requiring human intervention.
Wearable technology is on the rise in both personal and business use. In the consumer space, sales of smart wristbands (aka activity trackers such as the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex) started accelerating in 2013. One out of five American adults have a wearable device according to the 2014 Price Waterhouse Coopers Wearable Future Report. Smart shoe for the visually challenged is a product that is currently available and has great scope in the future. In healthcare, wearables have long been used, for example in detecting health disorders such as sleep apnea. A study in 2014 by MSI and McAfee reported that 70 per cent of people think that wearable technologies will soon send health vitals readings to physicians.
IoT in medical textiles
As this in an era of convergence, tendency of wearable devices merged into textile becomes the next generation trend which is also known as e-textile. This concept triggers the idea of smart gown for the patients in hospital which could preferably be a smart solution for gathering of data as well as management of data in a smart way. As patients are prime concern in medical sector, wearable devices with better comfort are the vital part for developing any solution for hospital. Moreover, from practical experience as well as from literature it has been found that patients in a hospital wear special clothes like gown for the comfort of their own. So, gown could be the best area to implement IoT as it has the features of textiles and could be converged with devices. Although some gowns with small features are existing those are not providing maximised feature for patient monitoring. Next aspect can be remote monitoring of a patient. Consider a condition in which a patient is from Nagpur and his doctor is from Mumbai. It is not possible for him to come for a weekly check-up. Doctor can check patient’s vital parameters from his office using his smart phone or laptop.
All textile sensors and the micro controller can be sewn on a sock that can be worn easily by the user. Numerous portable devices are available that can detect certain medical conditions—pulse rate, blood pressure, breath alcohol level, and so on—from a user’s touch. Imagine a scenario where a patient’s medical profile, vital parameters, and dialysis machine inputs are captured with the help of some textile material (infused with medical device) attached to his body. The patient does not even have to move from facility to facility to receive treatment. Data gathered from this device is analysed and stored, and the aggregation from multiple sensors and medical devices helps make informed decisions in a timely manner.
Realtime disease management: In a connected healthcare environment with continuous remote monitoring, patients can get treated proactively before their condition worsens. This not only helps patients’ health, but also reduces the cost of care. The focus is shifted from treatment to wellness.
Improved quality of life: For the critically ill, pediatric and aged populations, IoT offers an easier life. The elderly can live independently at any location of their choice while getting their medical condition monitored. The current evolution of the traditional medical model toward the participatory medicine can be boosted by the Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm involving sensors (environmental, wearable, and implanted) spread inside domestic environments with the purpose to monitor the user’s health and activate remote assistance. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is now mature to provide part of the IoT physical layer for the personal healthcare in smart environments through low-cost, energy-autonomous, and disposable sensors.
As convergence with textile and smart electronics devices become a recent trend, there are several works still going on and some of them are based on e-textile concept. For efficient ECG signal monitoring, an inner vest named E-bro has been developed with the textile electrode sensors printed on the vest. Moreover, E-bra has been developed for sports to monitor vital sign as well. For reducing the workload of the nursing staff to prevent pressure ulcer, a bed size body pressure sensor has been developed with the help of smart textile technology. For continuous monitoring of vital signals and transfer those bio physiological signals, European Union introduced a project named as wealthy project. Main goal of this project was comfortable health monitoring. STELLA project has been developed for stretchable electronics in order to apply for large area application in healthcare management system. Dephotex project has been done to explore and develop photovoltaic cells in order to get flexible photovoltaic textile based on novel fibres allowing to take benefit from the solar radiation. It has been found that, most of the proposed gown have been made with the existing system and having the generalised feature. As IoT becomes popular day by day, the demand for new technology added with textiles is also increasing. This demand triggers the idea where the maximum utilisation has been focused for next generation smart gown.
Following are the uses and application:
Calorie measurement sensor: As patient health is concerned, proper calorie maintenance is one the major challenges. Adequate calories will make the patients keep their body in a balanced shape so that the body could regain the prevention power. It has been found that, doctors always prescribed that the patient take enough food but due to illness it is hard to maintain it in a balanced way. Calorie measurement sensor will inform the calorie condition of the patient so that concerned bodies could take adequate steps. This senor will give an overview to maintain body calorie.
Breathing feedback sensor: Breathing is always critical issue for patient. Monitoring the breathing status and continuous update could play a vital role for a better service and medication. It will also help doctors to justify the patients breathing condition. Breathing feedback sensors could be integrated in smart gown for a better monitoring and feedback in respiratory system. By using this sensor, breathing condition could be measured and necessary steps could be performed as per requirement prescribed by experts.
Temperature adaptive sensor: Smart gown would have a sensor which will generate heat/cold as per the body temperature to ensure total comfort of patient in different situations. In addition, smart gown has to be made with special textile fibres like nano fibres. Expected possible outcome could be patients comfort by heat generation or reduction based on temperature.
To conclude, it can be said that IoT is the future of data transmission. Long gone are the days of Bluetooth and NFC or any other wired transmission. From the above paper we can clearly state that incorporating IoT with textiles is possible and it will have benefits long time until a new technology arrives. Getting real time data through garment and wearable smart textile is what the generation wants.
Thanks to IoT, clients now can draw a great, reliable and relevant amount of information in order to effectively undertake maintenance. In a nutshell, IoT has following benefits:
- Complete 24/7 online monitoring
- Prevention from major machine failures
- Longer lifespan
- Higher efficiency
- Complete reliability
- Fewer risks due to absence of skilled personnel or staff.
Industries such as apparel and textile manufacturing traditionally have had very low profit margins. They now have the potential to increase these margins and drive top-line growth by incorporating smart materials into their manufacturing and consumer products. With the advancement of sensor technologies, it is not far enough when the bio-sensors itself can take necessary actions. A patient in need of glucose does not need to take it manually; rather the bio-sensors can push the glucose into the patient’s body depending on the feedback from the Intelligent Medical server (IMS). Not only will these individuals personally benefit from their improved health and well-being, but society will also benefit from their increased productivity and societal contributions.
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The author is from D.K.T.E. Society’s Textile & Engineering Institute, Rajwada, Ichalkaranji, Maharashtra.