On Monday (July 15), a 10-man research team, headed by Assistant Professor John Ho from the NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology, revealed a “smart” textile that can conduct radio-waves like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on the surface of clothing.
The grey conductive textile is said to create a “wireless body sensor network” that allows devices to transmit data with a signal that is a thousand times stronger than that of conventional technologies. The material – made from stainless steel fibres – comes in the form of comb-shaped strips that are attached to the outer surface of clothing by embroidery or fabric adhesive. Asst Prof Ho and his team engineered the specially-patterned textile to confine signals between sensors closer to the body instead of letting them spread away into surrounding space. This way, more energy from the signal between devices is localised to the body rather than radiating in all directions, allowing electronics worn in close proximity to these strips to use much less power than usual and be able to detect much weaker signals. The meta-material textiles can also “boost the received signal by 1,000 times which could give you dramatically high data rates for the same power.”
Asst Prof Ho said the risks are very minimal and is less significant than holding a smartphone near one’s body for a prolonged period of time. The strips are available in rolls and can be arranged in any pattern on clothes to connect different areas of the body. These clothes can also be washed, dried and ironed as with regular garments. Applications could range dramatically, from measuring a patient’s vital signs without inhibiting their freedom of motion, to adjusting the volume in an athlete’s wireless headphones with a single hand motion,” NUS said.