BodyNet: A new generation of wearable health tech

Apps that keep track of what you eat and monitor your steps each day are two-a-penny – and that’s great because it encourages more and more of us to proactively look after our health.

But now a team of researchers from Stanford University have taken body monitoring one step further by developing a stretchy Band-Aid-like sensor patch that sticks right on your skin.

Known as BodyNet, the flexible stick-on sensor provides efficient health monitoring by detecting physiological signals emanating from the skin. These signals are then sent wirelessly via a RFID antenna to a receiver attached to the wearer’s clothing.

BodyNet is capable of providing accurate information relating to a person’s pulse, breathing and rate of respiration, plus leg and arm movements.

Image credit: Stanford University []

Amazingly, the wearable sensors contain no batteries or other rigid parts, relying instead on RFID energy to power them up.

Further refinement is still needed

At present, each BodyNet sensor needs its own RFID receiver to function, but it is hoped that a single piece of ‘smart’ clothing with RFID reading capabilities woven into the fabric can be developed further down the line. Said clothing would then periodically transmit data to a nearby computer or smartphone so it can be analysed.

The goal is to develop BodyNet further so that it can monitor additional vital signs, such as body temperature. Then, the technology may be utilised by healthcare professionals to silently monitor patients’ with sleep disorders or heart conditions, as well as helping athletes wishing to optimise their performance.

Are we all going to be wearing a BodyNet sensor one day, or is it taking health monitoring a little too far?

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If you want to find out more about BodyNet and you’re up for some heavy reading, a paper on the research was published in the journal Nature Electronics []

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