When we get under the weather, sometimes we feel the symptoms come on gradually, other times they come on all of a sudden. New devices that are available to buy at the moment, such as wearable sensors around the wrist for example, allow us to detect changes in our bodies and track our vital signs. Some of these devices, record our sleep behaviour and track sleep logs on tablets, smart phones and computers. Others detect our heart rate and temperature. Although these pieces of equipment work perfectly well, they are dependent on the user remembering to monitor them on a daily basis which, for many, would be an obstruction for work and other activities. Scientists however, have recently found a way to produce clothing which incorporates sensors within the weave of the fabric, meaning that the user would have the sensors on them at all times.
There are many different aspects of our body’s behaviour that could be tracked using these new materials, such as temperature change and heart rate, and brain activity and muscle behaviour while exercising. If the user is living with an anxiety condition, the amount that they sweat and their respiration rate could also be tracked. Each of these uses is considered when designing different types of the smart clothing, ensuring that the best results can be found. Having the sensors in our clothes allows them to be closer to the body in areas that would usually be awkward to clip on a device, allowing for more accurate readings. Wearing them every day will also mean that clear trends could be plotted to help predict an illness or condition, and with them being invisible, it allows the sensors to be worn all the time.
The readings collected by these detectors would be able to be seen by the user and also their doctor, so that they could spot early signs and track how their bodies behave. This technology would be especially beneficial for the elderly or disabled, as they could detect any subtle changes such as temperature, and keep track of them without the need of multiple visits to the GP. They may also help predict other conditions such as seizures and heart problems, before the symptoms appear. The sensors would also be able to alert doctors if the person had fallen. Another positive to this technology is that pharmaceutical companies can also track the effect that their medication is having on patients, and also tell doctors whether the treatment being given is suited to the patient, or whether an alternative needs to be found.
Although some people may think that these sensors would be an invasion of privacy, if used correctly they could be used to have many advantages, including keeping track on those most vulnerable such as disabled people and the elderly. The records detected and plotted by the software will be able to be seen by doctors as a diary, helping them to understand the symptoms which occur between visits, and may help to distinguish what treatment is needed. With new technology such as this, the medical sector is becoming more interactive, which will hopefully, in time, make the system even more efficient.
How will this new technology help health professionals in the treatment of patients in the future?