Six winners from the Wearable Technologies World Cup
Although there are many more listed into the event’s hall-of-fame, here is my favourite pick from the top finalists. At the official award ceremony, Moticon was declared the overall winner and WT Innovator of the Year for its intelligent insole, OpenGo Therapist.
OpenGo is what German startup Moticon claims to be the world’s first fully integrated and wirelessly connected sensor insole, measuring plantar pressure distribution. Designed to be cost-effective and as thin and flexible as a normal insole, the sensor-laden insole can be used for patient monitoring and direct feedback to patients with respect to gait training and overload prevention.
But it can also provide direct training feedback in sports. It can operate in live mode, transmitting data through an ANT+ radio to a mobile device in real-time (an ANT+ enabled USB flash drive plugs into the phone), or in recording mode where it stores data on an integrated flash memory. The insole features 13 capacitive pressure sensors as well as a 3D acceleration sensor and a temperature sensor.
Created in 2011, Swiss startup Biovotion AG took the top rank in the Healthcare & Wellness award category for its Biovotion Vital Sign Monitoring (VSM) platform. Wearable health monitoring has a big market to address in ageing Europe and research labs such as imec, Fraunhofer or CEA-Leti regularly come up with interesting concepts to monitor vital signs.
The Biovotion VSM platform wraps around the patient’s upper arm for unrestricted and continuous monitoring, say for chronic illnesses or for temporary patient-at-home monitoring. Integrating a multi-wavelength optical reflection sensor in contact with the skin, an accelerometer and a temperature sensor, the arm-band can measure blood oxygenation and cutaneous blood volume, skin temperature and heart rate (and its variability). Activated via a smartphone, the platform shares the data in real-time and automatically uploads it to the cloud for semi-automatic analysis and for caretakers to be alerted when set specific conditions occurs.
Reading through your touch
An interesting entry from the Suez University, Egypt, is the so-called Third Eye. Categorized in the Gaming & Lifestyle section, the wrap-around device fits like a partial glove holding together an optical sensor at the fingertip and a processing unit nearer the wrist. As the wearer passes his/her fingertip onto the pages of a book or a newspaper, the optical sensor automatically scans the text and the results are then transmitted wirelessly to a hearing unit that reads them out loud.
Effectively, this product enables visually-impaired people to read any regular text, without relying on Braille-only material. Such a device would also prove very useful to illiterates, as a learning tool, “listening to written words”. Pairing it with a smartphone and the cloud, you could even extend this learning strategy to foreign languages, for example to automatically translate the scanned text, listen to the pronunciation and learn about the words’ meaning.
For blind people, the sensor can also recognize colours, or determine if it is day or night
In the Security & Prevention category, my choice goes to two very similar approaches to detecting head impacts. One is the so-called Smart Skull, a university project from the Technoplanet Labs – www.technoplanetlabs.com – at the Manav Rachna College of Engineering, in Haryana, India. The other is a fully integrated head cap, the so-called Reebok Checklight commercialized by mc10 inc.
The Smart Skull is implemented as a bike helmet featuring an inlay with an accelerometer, an optical heart rate sensor, a microcontroller and a 3.7V battery-operated Bluetooth radio. When it detects an impact above a pre-set threshold value, it transmits an alert to the rider’s smartphone via Bluetooth and starts monitoring the victim rider with the heart rate sensor pointing on the rider’s forehead.
Using a cloud application, the smartphone can then analyse the data from the sensors and informs pre-selected relatives, nearest hospital, police and emergency centres about the intensity and location of the trauma. On receiving an alert, the application will first prompt the rider for 10 seconds, and only if it does not get any response, it will aggregate the data to make the necessary calls.
Although it is featured in the Sports & Fitness category, the Reebok Checklight head impact indicator could certainly be extended to other safety applications. Worn as a thin skullcap under or without a helmet, the Reebok Checklight integrates an accelerometer and a gyroscope to measure the force of impacts that the head can experience during contact sports.
A green, yellow and red LED system resting at the base of the neck indicates that the device is on, moderate impacts, or more severe impacts, respectively. The system also logs the total number of impacts. This helps coaches monitor their athletes, with an indication as for when they should sideline an athlete for further injury assessment. You can think of American football, hockey, rugby, but also all sorts of martial arts.
In the Sports & Fitness category, I really like the MBody shorts for real-time muscular activity monitoring. Developed and commercialized by Finnish startup Myontec Ltd, the sportswear integrates built-in textile sensors that measure the wearer’s Electromyography (EMG) signals of various muscle groups, quadriceps and hamstrings, on both legs.
The electrical currents generated by the muscles during their contraction are then analysed to provide feedback on muscle performance, in any training environment. The shorts come with a compact electronic unit that also logs the heart-rate, speed and altitude. Through a wireless connection, the data can be followed on a mobile phone either during or after the exercise. Myontec not only targets sports enthusiasts, helping them improve their techniques, muscular balance and efficiency, the product could be useful in occupational ergonomics to offer bio-feedback on repetitive work or heavy load handling. Rehabilitation and well-being are other interesting applications, gaming feedback and control could be developed.
From June 2014, developers and innovative start-ups will be able to enter the next Wearable Technologies Innovation World Cup.