If you’re into fitness wearables, you’re probably well aware of just about every option out there from regular wrist-worn trackers to all manner of smart clothes, including smart socks and shirts like Samsung’s the humanfit line. Innovation in just about every field of the tech world is on the rise these days and all kinds of huge things may be in the pipeline for fitness wearables. One of those huge innovations may just be a new research project from UC Berkeley. Fresh from their research labs come flexible sensors that take a comprehensive readout of your sweat to generate comprehensive fitness data, most of which couldn’t be measured by traditional trackers or even most smart clothes.
Revealed in an issue of science and tech magazine Nature, these new sensors can tell a user about factors like fatigue, high body temperature and dehydration that they may otherwise ignore. This sensor is the very first to be able to provide continuous and non-invasive monitoring of the multiple biochemicals found in sweat. The study’s principal investigator, Ali Javey, summed up the thinking behind the sensor, saying, “Human sweat contains physiologically rich information, thus making it an attractive body fluid for non-invasive wearable sensors… However, sweat is complex and it is necessary to measure multiple targets to extract meaningful information about your state of health. In this regard, we have developed a fully integrated system that simultaneously and selectively measures multiple sweat analytes, and wirelessly transmits the processed data to a smartphone. Our work presents a technology platform for sweat-based health monitors.”
Another contributor, Brooks, added his two cents about the non-invasive nature of the project. “When studying the effects of exercise on human physiology, we typically take blood samples. With this non-invasive technology, someday it may be possible to know what’s going on physiologically without needle sticks or attaching little, disposable cups on you.” The current prototype employs five sensors on a flexible printed circuit board, along with components to take measurements, amplify signals, compensate for outside influences, transmit the data wirelessly and other functions. This circuit board is directly adjacent to the sensor array. While use as a companion to a traditional fitness tracker’s sensors is the first applications that comes to mind, the researchers think that it could see other uses. Javey added that one of the goals for the device is viability for population-wide medical studies, while Brooks pointed out that the device could be used to monitor fluids besides sweat to give medical staff more information on sick patients without having to resort to invasive tactics.