|30 January 2017|
A new wireless wearable which monitors a person’s skin hydration can detect dehydration before it poses a health problem.
Developed by researchers from North Carolina State University the lightweight device is flexible, stretchable and has been incorporated into prototype devices that can be worn on the wrist or as a chest patch.
“It’s difficult to measure a person’s hydration quantitatively, which is relevant for everyone from military personnel to athletes to firefighters, who are at risk of health problems related to heat stress when training or in the field,” says John Muth, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-corresponding author of a paper describing the work.
“We have developed technology that allows us to track an individual’s skin hydration in real time,” says Yong Zhu, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State and co-corresponding author of the paper. “Our sensor could be used to protect the health of people working in hot conditions, improve athletic performance and safety, and to track hydration in older adults or in medical patients suffering from various conditions. It can even be used to tell how effective skin moisturizers are for cosmetics.”
The sensors were incorporated into two different wearable systems: a wristwatch and an adhesive patch which can be worn on the chest. Both wirelessly transmit sensor data to a programme that can run on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. So the data can be monitored by the user or by a designated third party – such as a doctor in a hospital setting, or an officer in a military setting.
What’s more, the sensor is relatively inexpensive.
“The commercially available monitor we tested our system against costs more than $8,000,” says Shanshan Yao, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of the paper. “Our sensor costs about one dollar, and the overall manufacturing cost of the wearable systems we developed would be no more than a common wearable device, such as a Fitbit.”