These Smart Threads Could save Lives

New biomedical textiles show potential of smart, human-centered service systems

smart threads

Engineers are joining forces with designers, scientists and doctors at Drexel University to produce new biomedical textiles, and the resulting smart clothes are not only fashionably functional, but could also be life savers.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), electrical and computer engineer Kapil Dandekar, industrial and fashion designer Genevieve Dion, and OB-GYN Owen Montgomery are incorporating RFID technology into their “belly bands” for women with high-risk pregnancies. The band continuously tracks data and alerts the doctor’s office via the Internet should the woman start contractions. A smaller version is being created for babies at risk for sleep apnea.

Developed at the intersection of engineering, medicine and design, these examples of new human-centered service technology show vast potential to improve healthcare.

NSF has invested approximately $34 million in such systems in the last three years, supporting innovative new partnership projects to create service systems that are smart and human-centric.

The research in this episode was supported by award#1430212, Wearable Smart Textiles Based on Programmable and Automated Knitting Technology for Biomedical and Sensor Actuation Applications, under the Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) program.