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Fitness shirt powers e-bike based on heart rate and breathing

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December 18, 2013

The FitnessSHIRT and MENTORbike team up

The FitnessSHIRT and MENTORbike team up

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The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS is developing its wearable sports monitoring FitnessSHIRT with a 2014 launch in mind. It recently detailed a new application for the technology, pairing it with a pedelec bike powertrain and smartphone app to seamlessly manage motor output based upon the user's physiological data. In other words, when you show signs of being tired and winded, the motor automatically kicks in extra power.

The FitnessSHIRT uses conductive textile electrodes and elastic to track metrics like pulse, breathing and changes in heart rate. With the help of the attachable data storage module, which also calculates additional parameters like breath rate, the information can be uploaded wirelessly, analyzed and shared. It can then be used to track things like stress, performance and physical exertion.

"The FitnessSHIRT can be employed a number of ways. It offers completely new options for the pursuit of sports, leisure activities, and wellness, as well as options for the medical branch," says Christian Hofmann, an engineer at IIS.

Fraunhofer recently teamed up on the MENTORbike project to show how the FitnessSHIRT can work within a greater performance-based system. A collaborative project being sponsored by Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the MENTORbike system uses measured physiological and performance data from body, bike and smartphone sensors to stabilize training. Instead of a cyclist analyzing his performance data after training and making adjustments for the next session, the MENTORbike uses the data to adjust the training on the fly, by way of increasing or decreasing motor output.

MENTORbike is a vision for a more intuitive training system

Within the greater MENTORbike ecosystem, the FitnessSHIRT provides the raw physiological data. That data, which includes pulse and breath rate, is sent wirelessly to a handlbar-mounted smartphone, where it's analyzed in the accompanying app, along with other metrics like speed and energy expended. The smartphone then adjusts the output of the bike's motor based on the analysis. The system aims at eliminating overexertion and under-exertion to maintain a smooth, optimal level of training.

"If the pulse rate exceeds a maximum value of 150, for example, the rider is supported by the motor taking some of the load," explains Markus Gratzfeld, an engineer with BitifEye, one of the MENTORbike partners. "If the pulse rate falls below a value of 80 beats per minute, the electric motor is throttled back and the pedal loading increased again. The motor output adapts automatically to the fitness of the cyclist."

The MENTORbike's goal is quite similar to that of the Bike+ light hybrid system, but it adds in the variable of body performance measurements from the FitnessSHIRT instead of relying solely on bike-mounted sensors.

The FitnessSHIRT-MENTORbike system was demonstrated at last month's Medica 2013 Trade Fair in Dusseldorf. Fraunhofer's press release does not indicate if or when the full system might be readied for market, but it does say that Fraunhofer has a FitnessSHIRT investor and believes it can have the shirt itself market-ready next year.

Source: Fraunhofer Institute

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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