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A*STAR exhibition showcases technology closer to the skin

Home-grown prototypes of wearable technology were on display at the Next-to-the-Skin exhibition organised by local R&D agency A*STAR.

SINGAPORE: Home-grown prototypes of wearable technology were on display at the Next-to-the-Skin exhibition organised by local R&D agency A*STAR.

The 10 ideas presented at the exhibition, ranging from a baby’s swaddle to a cooling pad for fabrics, were all designed to make life easier through wearable technology.

"We see a lot of new spin-offs and start-ups that adopt wearable concepts worldwide, just to monitor health, sports performance, and potentially, it could even be used for military usage as well," said Radiana Soh, assistant vice-president of A*STAR’s Exploit Technologies.

Studies show that global retail revenue from wearable technology will hit nearly US$20 billion by 2018, up from US$1.5 billion in 2013.

Singapore is poised to ride the wave with its expertise in manufacturing, electronics and software application.

Scientists and designers took slightly more than a month to take the 10 ideas from concept to creation. The ideas were chosen for the exhibition based on criteria such as innovation, user demand and market value.

For parents who want to keep a closer eye on their babies, there's the “Totsense” -- a swaddle that uses fibre optic sensors to collect information on things like a baby's movement, heart rate, breathing and temperature.

The information is passed along to a wearable device and a smartphone app. The device flashes or vibrates when something is wrong, while the app provides the details.

"Newborn babies obviously can't communicate with their parents,” said Dr Mark Rice, engineering scientist at A*STAR.

“So the idea was ‘what if a newborn baby could tell their parents when they feel unwell?’ The focus of the technology is really to provide reassurance and peace of mind to young parents. We see demand."

Another innovation is “M-Kool” -- a cooling pad filled with microscopic substances that can be tuned to a desired temperature.

The pad is then interwoven into a garment.

"This new product is to help our people stay cool in this hot, tropical climate in Singapore,” said Dr Shah Krwok Wei, engineering scientist at A*STAR.

“We have heard news of our soldiers and our students getting heat exhaustion, heat strokes, after doing their exercise. Clothing, textiles, shoes industries, these are companies that are coming to us."

The prototypes were pitched to some 700 guests at the exhibition and if all goes well, the prototypes could hit store shelves in as little as two years. 

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