A smart shirt that measures lung function by sensing movements in the chest and abdomen has proved to be accurate when compared to traditional testing equipment. Researchers have used the smart shirts, together with a mobile app, to reliably measure breathing in healthy people while carrying out a range of everyday activities.
This means they can now test out the smart shirts with patients who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If successful, they hope this will allow doctors to monitor patients remotely for early signs that their condition is getting worse.
The smart shirt, called the Hexoskin, senses how the fabric stretches when the wearer's chest expands and contracts and uses these measurements to gauge the volume of air inhaled and exhaled. It also records heart rate and movement.
A group of 15 healthy volunteers to wear a smart shirt while doing everyday activities including lying down, sitting, standing, climbing stairs and vacuuming. At the same time, the volunteers also wore the equipment traditionally used to measure breathing that includes a face mask and bulky backpack. The volunteers repeated the tasks again wearing both pieces of equipment, to generate a second set of data.
The researchers now plan to repeat tests on the smart shirts with COPD patients, but they believe the technology might also help in other respiratory conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or after transplantation.