The wearable sensor market looks set to expand with a new sensor-fitted T-shirt and companion device currently being developed in Canada. The Hexoskin system analyzes movement, breathing and heart activity, then sends the data to an online account via a smartphone. It is also designed to make life easier for sports professionals who need to manage teams.
The T-shirt component is machine-washable and water-resistant, and can be worn under any type of sportswear. High-tech, breathable Italian fabric was engineered to keep moisture and heat regulated. The sensors have been placed away from the chest area so users can safely engage in contact sports.
A cable running from the shirt is plugged into the companion device that's secured in a waist pocket. Once body metrics data starts to be received, the Hexoskin device can wirelessly stream the data to a mobile device in real-time, or store the information until the user is able to transfer it via the supplied USB cable.
Dual band sensor technology ensures high-quality readings of cardiac performance. Hexoskin also features a precise breathing volume measurement. This is done with the help of two magnetic sensors that measure the shape of the body when a person breathes. This feature is useful for coaches to keep an eye on incidents of hyperventilation or breathing interruptions, and for breathing exercises in neuropsychology. Breathing volume is also a key marker for sleep monitoring.
With all those features, Hexoskin’s applications go beyond collecting stats during physical training and could be used as a constant companion. For instance, besides sleep reports, it's been designed to pick up activity and stress levels throughout the day.
"We use activity patterns, breathing patterns, heart rate variability and other factors to measure stress during the day," Hexoskin CEO Pierre-Alexandre Fournier tells Gizmag.
To monitor the quality of sleep, "the combination of movement, breathing, and heart sensors gives a lot of information about your sleep states (wake versus sleep, movements and sleep positions, light versus deep sleep)," adds Fournier. "We are developing our algorithms for sleep monitoring in collaboration with the Montreal Polytechnic Biomedical Engineering department, Hospital Rivieres-des-Prairies and other clinical partners."
For coaches, the company has developed the Hexoskin Team app to allow professionals to program, time and annotate the training routines of athletes. Trainers can connect to groups of 24 athletes at the same time, and three Hexoskin data streams in real-time. The company has released an alpha version so users can provide feedback during the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign launched to bring the system to market.
At the time of writing, there are still a small number of kits available at the US$339 pledge level. Once they're gone, backers will need to offer at least $369. If all goes according to plan, shipping is estimated to start from March 2014.
In order to allow for more customization and expand the number of apps Hexoskin can interact with, the company has plans to make an open API available to developers and hobbyists, and there's a Bluetooth SDK for mobile apps developers.
The video below features Fournier making his pitch.