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Advancements in Wearable Sensors Could Enhance Comfort and Improve Human Health

By Sharad Singh

The expectation of connectivity anytime anywhere drives the wearable sensors market. Moreover, the upsurge in aging population and skyrocketing healthcare expenses have enforced people to opt for several fitness gadgets to track their daily activities and improve well-being. In line with this trend, prominent market players have focused on bringing advancements in technology by integrating sensors, known as wearable sensors, in clothes and other fashion accessories using wired or wireless devices. Wearable sensors are ideal for tracking and measuring health and sports performance. From a number of steps a person has taken in a day to the quantity of oxygen inhaled while sleeping, wearable sensors can monitor a plethora of daily activities. Moreover, wearable sensors help monitor adults or patients with chronic conditions. Thus, the demand for wearable sensors has increased in the last few years. According to a research firm, Allied Market Research, the wearable sensors market is projected to reach $2.258 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 52.9% from 2016 to 2022.

The need for continuous connectivity demands an extended battery power for the wearable devices, which compelled scientists to develop solar-powered components that can be used in the wearable devices.

Wearable Sensors Powered By Solar Supercapacitors

A team of researchers at the University of Glasgow’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) discovered a novel way to enhance the performance of wearable sensors and reduce power consumption by developing a solar-powered supercapacitor. Supercapacitors are expected to make wearable sensors lighter and more energy-efficient. The team developed a new type of graphene supercapacitor, which can be used in next-generation wearable health sensors.

The current technology used in wearable sensors relies on heavy and inflexible batteries, which are uncomfortable for long-term use. Thus, the team, led by Professor Ravinder Dahiya, developed a powerful wearable health sensor that adapts itself according to the wearer’s body, ensures better comfort, and collects data more efficiently. Prof. Dahiya stated, “We are extremely happy with the performance of this new solar-powered supercapacitor. This revolutionary technology, at its core, is a flexible, wearable health monitoring system that requires exposure to sunlight to keep itself charged alongside offering a great deal of additional potential.”

The developed supercapacitor uses multiple layers of flexible and three-dimensional porous foams from graphene and silver. This combination of metals helps to produce and store three-fold power compared to traditional supercapacitors. The team demonstrated the durability of the supercapacitor and proved that it can stay powered for 25,000 charging and discharging cycles. Dahiya also added that this technology can be used in remote health monitoring across rural parts of the world.

Wearable Sensors Help Quit Smoking

Wearable sensors took a giant leap in healthcare to save human lives when scientists at Case Western Reserve University developed an automatic alert system that can help impulsive smokers to quit smoking. Their smart application is based on the Android operating system, which has been designed to send texts video messages automatically to smokers when the wearable sensor detects specific arm and body movements related to smoking.

Erstwhile, nicotine gums have played a key role in helping people stay away from nicotine addiction. However, in the recent years, wearable sensors technology has gained popularity to fight against addiction. This technology, which has accuracy up to 98%, comprises two armband sensors that can detect smoking motions, and trigger a personalized text-messaging service that reminds users to quit smoking. The study, which was conducted on a group of 10 users, was recently published in Smart Health journal.  

Ming-Chun Huang, assistant electrical engineering and computer science professor and team leader of the study expressed, “Our system has been effectively differentiating between a single motion that can easily confuse with eating and drinking. Our wearable sensors can detect a sequence of motions with high accuracy and inform whether the user is smoking or not.”

According to Huang, the system was developed and tested over the period of one year by the team of Case School of Engineering and a high school intern in collaboration with a clinical psychologist at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.