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Smart Fabrics Monitor Patient Health

Researchers at Drexel University are developing clothing with conductive fibers, which can detect medical conditions and transmit data via RFID.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 26, 2014

When a woman in labor arrives at a hospital, one of the first things caregivers do is hook her up to a tocodynamometer, a device that monitors the timing and severity of uterine contractions, by placing electrodes on her belly. But the electrodes and the wires connected to them can be annoying for a woman experiencing contractions.

A more comfortable monitoring device could be an RFID-enabled bellyband, which fits around a woman's midsection. It has no electrodes or wires—just smart fabric.

The researchers tested the bellyband on a mannequin designed for simulated childbirth. (Photo: Drexel University)
The smart fabric was designed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Drexel University, including Kapil Dandekar, Adam Fontecchio and Timothy Kurzweg, electrical engineering professors in the College of Engineering; Genevieve Dion, a fashion design professor in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and director of the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Laboratory; and Owen Montgomery, M.D., head of obstetrics and gynecology in the College of Medicine.

The team knit an RFID antenna with a combination of conductive and nonconductive threads and created a little pocket for a Murata MagicStrap ultrahigh-frequency chip. The chip has pads that inductively couple with the knit antenna, creating a working passive RFID transponder that can wirelessly transmit data to a reader.

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