SINGAPORE: Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a wireless smart suit for athletes that is powered by electromagnetic signals from a smartphone.
The battery-free suit is lightweight and can be used outdoors, making it possible to track athletic performance with real-time physiological data from multiple sensors.
It took about two years for the team from the NUS Institute of Health Innovation and Technology to develop the suit, said the university in a press release on Monday (Sep 21).
In research findings published earlier this year, the team proved that it was possible to relay a smartphone's near-field communication signals to different locations on the body using specially designed inductive patterns.
The team designed a pattern of web-like threads on the suit to relay these signals from a nearby smartphone to sensors on the body from as far as 1m away, providing power and data connectivity.
Current technology for monitoring athletic performance ranges from wearable fitness trackers, which only collect data from a single point, to "bulky" clinical monitoring equipment, said NUS.
However, the "ideal system" would collect data from multiple sensors on the athlete's body in an outdoor environment, while keeping "bulk, weight and wires" to a minimum, said the university.
"Our smart suit works with most modern smartphones, which act as both the source of power as well as the display to view the sensor data. The creation of a smart suit that can be powered using built-in smartphone wireless technology is a major breakthrough," said Assistant Professor John Ho, who led the NUS team.
READ: Singapore researchers discover milder COVID-19 strain, opening up new avenues for treatment and vaccine development
The current prototype of the smart suit supports up to six sensors per smartphone while collecting data such as spinal posture, running gait and body temperature, said NUS.
"Among these functions, the ability to measure spinal position across multiple nodes is most significant as spinal posture is an integral part of developing a solid athletic stance which is often overlooked due to the difficulty in collecting real-time data previously," said the university.
It added that other potential applications of the smart suit included clinical diagnosis of spinal disorder and round-the-clock health monitoring.
The researchers plan to develop new sensors to increase the range of data collected, and work with professional athletes to help them monitor their physiological signals during training, said the university.