Developing flexible, stretchable and washable electronics that are seamlessly integrated in textile
Human-centric wearables is an umbrella concept for the application of wearable electronics - developed by TNO at Holst Centre - in smart clothing and health patches. Together with imec, TNO is part of Holst Centre, an independent innovation centre that focuses on complete healthcare solutions.
Key goal is to actively promote healthy living with a strong emphasis on the human aspects of healthcare. That’s exactly where wearables come in: by developing flexible, stretchable and washable electronics that are seamlessly integrated in textile, TNO at Holst Centre makes it possible to create smart clothing. Collaborations with innovative designers ensure these clothes don’t look like medical devices, but are stylish and fashionable. On top of that, health patches offer innovative support for actual medical treatments.
Aiming for not just treatment, but also prevention
Putting the emphasis on the human part of human-centric wearables, the overall viewpoint is that people are not patients. They want to live their lives as normal and comfortable as possible. Even, or perhaps especially, when it comes to healthcare. That’s why TNO at Holst Centre aims for not just treatment, but also prevention. Therefore wearable electronics can play a big part, for instance by monitoring vital body functions. On the one hand by applying health patches directly to the body, on the other hand by intertwining the electronics with desirable clothing and thus creating smart fashion.
Human centric wearables
Combining design with a high level of technical advancement
For people to integrate these wearables into their day-to-day life, the fabric needs to feel, move and adapt to the body just like normal clothes and patches do. Keeping this essential guideline in mind, TNO at Holst Centre developed its core strength in functional printing technologies. For more than a decade, dozens of experts are continually optimizing the process for printed electronics in multi-layered circuit structures. This makes it possible to combine clothing and/or medical design with a high level of technical advancement, wherein the electronics are integrated seamlessly.
Health patch for support of medical treatments
The expertise of TNO at Holst Centre can also make a difference when healthcare passes the point of prevention and people do get sick. In that case, they need proper medical devices. One of the products developed especially for support of treatments is the health patch. Also wearable and containing printed electronics, but attached to the body instead of incorporated with textile. This makes it even more accurate to measure (for instance) heart rate, breathing rate, breathing depth or skin temperature.
The patches can measure electrical signals from the body, such as ECG, EMG and bio-impedance, which makes it possible to determine vital signs and other physiological parameters. Furthermore, adding sensors like an accelerometer makes it possible to monitor movement or posture via the health patch. A feature that can be useful for keeping an (remote) eye on older people who are not very mobile, by keeping track of whether they’re moving around or lying in the same position.
Preventing the health care system from overloading
By making use of wearables, people can stay in the comfort of their own homes while receiving the medical care the need or desire. When a visit to a hospital is necessary, the health care system is prevented from overloading. And because the wearables are completely wireless, bearers won’t experience any hassle in their everyday activities. That’s what makes it human-centric.