What you need to know

  • An Apple patent has revealed how smart clothing could be used to measure health vitals
  • The patent was published Thursday by USPTO.
  • The patent covers circuitry within clothing including sensors that could measure health vitals such as ECG, blood pressure, respiration and more.

An Apple patent published yesterday, and reported on by Patently Apple could potentially signal that Apple is working on ways to include integrated circuitry in clothing that could measure health data. Specifically, it covers the idea of a stretchable band integrated into the fabric of a garment for monitoring of health data.

The patent is titled "Fabric-Based Items With Stretchable Bands" and the abstract states:

A fabric-based item may be provide with a stretchable band. The stretchable band may be formed from a ring-shaped strip of stretchable fabric having an opening configured to fit around a body part of a user. Circuitry may be coupled to strands of material in the stretchable band. The circuitry may include sensor circuitry for making measurements on the body part such as electrocardiogram measurements, blood pressure measurements, and respiration rate measurements. Wireless communications circuitry in the fabric-based item may be used to communicate wirelessly with external electronic equipment. A wireless power transmitting device may transmit wireless power. A coil formed from conductive strands in the fabric-based item may be used by wireless power receiving circuitry in the fabric-based item to receive the wireless power. The coil may have one or more turns that run around the ring-shaped strip of stretchable fabric.

According to the report from Patently Apple, it seems that the technology could be used in smart clothing (and accessories) to "measure health vitals and even provide another way for taking an ECG and much more. It may even work in concert with Apple Watch to take more accurate ECG readings." Patently Apple also notes that one of listed inventors is none other than Daniel Podhajny, who worked on Nike's Flyknit material and is listed in several patents related to it. Indeed, it is stated within the filing that "This relates generally to items with fabric and, more particularly, to items with stretchable fabric."

Whilst the idea of wearable, smart clothing sounds fantastic, the most obvious problem would seem to be keeping it clean... Just ask anyone who has put their old iPhone through a washer/dryer. Within the body of the patent, there are provisions made so that the fabric-based technology could sustain "relatively high temperatures such as those associated with laundering of clothing", and the dangers of water.

For example, the fabric-based item may have supercapacitors for energy storage and other electrical components that can be laundered in hot water and dried in a clothes dryer without damage.

Via USPTO

Like the Apple Watch needs iPhone, wearable tech would need a hub device to connect to, and the summary notes that the circuitry would include wireless communications tech within the fabric-based item, so as to allow communication with "external electronic equipment", which could perhaps be a phone or a watch.

As always, a published Apple patent is not confirmation of future Apple tech, however the idea that one day we might be able to wear clothes that measure our vital signs is fascinating. Wearable tech is not new by any means, but the idea that sensors and circuitry could be integrated into the fabric of our clothes is certainly a fascinating prospect. The only question that remains is at which stage of the laundering process does one charge your workout t-shirt?

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