Could this smart bra transform the medical sector?

Designers have changed the face of the sports bra market in recent years with moisture-wicking fabrics and innovative support systems, and now one brand is going a step further by providing health professionals and fitness buffs with a new way to track vital data.

This September, SmartLife, a team of scientists and engineers specialising in intelligent wearables, will launch a sports bra made with patented sensors that can monitor the heart rate, breathing rate and calorie data.

The technology is based on the use of conductive yarns, which are woven in to the fabric and act as sensors that pick up on body signals, such as ECG, and deliver them to a lightweight electronic ‘brain’ housed wirelessly within the garment.

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Signals are then transmitted via Bluetooth to detectors – in the form of apps on a smartphone or tablet – carried by the wearer. The information collected can also be uploaded to the cloud or sent to a third party, such as a doctor.

"We could put a t-shirt on 20 people in a ward and a clinician can walk in with an i-Pad and see all 20 heart rates," SmartLife CEO Andy Baker told CNN.

The rules of medical approval mean such an application is still a few years away, but Smartlife is targeting medical use by 2017.

"We don’t want to diagnose, just collect and share the data as they wish," added Baker.

The SmartLife bra, available for pre-order, carries a recommend retail price of £44.99. With the addition of the SmartLife Brain and charging unit, the bra will cost £124.99.

The product will initially be available in sizes 32A-40DD.

SmartLife was founded in 2002 when the University of Manchester’s Biomedical Engineering Department and the Textile Department of UMIST joined forces to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the field of smart fabrics and mobile health.

It has developed products with the help of Courtaulds Textiles and Sally Cowan Ltd and they have independently tested and verified by research institutions.

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