European researchers have developed a smart fabric that can monitor muscular overload and help prevent repetitive strain injury, or RSI. But that is just the beginning. The team is also exploring a pregnancy belt to monitor babyâ€™s heartbeat, clothing to help coach hockey, and shirts that monitor muscle fatigue during training.
Smart fabrics promise to revolutionise clothing by incorporating sensors into cloth for health, lifestyle and business applications. In the long term, they could consist of circuits and sensors that provide all of the typical electronics we carry around today, like mobile phones and PDAs.Current, first-generation applications are far more modest, and pioneering medical smart fabrics are used to monitor vital signs like heart rate and temperature. But two crucial hurdles
â€“ unobtrusiveness and reliability â€“ impede widespread adoption of such clever clothes. Now one European research team has developed groundbreaking medical-sensing smart fabrics, and its work could lead to pregnancy monitoring belts, sports clothing that provides training tips, a wearable physical game controller, and a vest that helps to prevent repetitive strain injury. The Context project initially sought to develop an RSI vest to tackle a serious work safety issue. Repetitive actions can, over time, lead to permanent injury and the problem costs billions of euros a year. It affects over 40 million workers across the continent and is responsible for 50 percent of all work-related ill-health.