Flexible sensors help improve wearable technology in clothing

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TOKYO >> Wearable technology is often associated with watches and glasses, but with the development of flexible, stretchable sensors, wearables in clothing have proliferated.

The sophistication of the fabrics was particularly remarkable and led to the development of a variety of intelligent textiles with sensory functions.

The hamon of Kyoto-based Mitsufuji Corp. is a shirt made of silvered fibers that conduct electricity. By capturing and analyzing biometric information such as heart rate, the shirt can detect health risks and send information to a smartphone.

In May last year, the Kyoto prefectural government introduced hamon to manage changes in the physical condition of patients who contracted COVID-19 overnight and to prevent secondary infections among staff such as nurses.

Hamon is also used to control the physical condition of workers on construction sites who toil under the hot sun. Health data can be monitored remotely by site supervisors, which could prevent heat-related incidents.

Kobe-based Asics and Tokyo-based startup Orphe have created Evoride Orphe shoes that provide advice for proper form while the wearer runs.

Sensors built into the padded area of ​​the shoe collect data such as stride length and ankle angle. The data is immediately analyzed by a smartphone app that provides personalized information to the user. It also shows tips for improving running technique.

The shoe becomes a kind of personal trainer.

Those struggling with insomnia can wear the e-skin Sleep T-shirt to bed. The shirt from the startup Xenoma is used for sleep diagnosis.

A piece of fabric with embedded flexible electronic circuits is sewn into a pocket and comes with a small electronic device attached to the pocket. The device can measure heartbeat, body movements and temperature, and the readings are analyzed using a dedicated smartphone app.

Sleep quality is rated and the app gives advice on how to improve the score.

Fashion retailer Urban Research Co. sells pajamas that use the same device, and the clothing is popular with health-conscious customers in their 30s and 40s.

Japan’s smart textiles market was expected to grow 72% from 2019 levels to a US$4.3 million industry in 2020; in 2030, growth is expected to be 47 times the 2020 level, according to the Yano Research Institute, and bring in nearly $200 million.

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