As wearable devices multiply and gather ever more data about our bodies, the batteries and wireless networks they rely on can become strained. To give wearables a longer battery life and to allow gigabytes of data to be transmitted at the same time, researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed a new type of textile with embedded sensor networks that use very little electricity.
These days wearables typically use Bluetooth wireless connectivity to connect with users’ smartphones. This is very inefficient if you have small devices that are supposed to work for a long time. The new “metamaterial textiles” can gather signals from nearby sensors and transmit them over a conductive network woven throughout a piece of clothing. Very little energy is used to transfer data throughout the system and many sensors can be used at the same time.
From the study in Nature Electronics:
Here, we report energy-efficient and secure wireless body sensor networks that are interconnected through radio surface plasmons propagating on metamaterial textiles. The approach uses clothing made from conductive fabrics that can support surface-plasmon-like modes at radio communication frequencies. Our body sensor networks enhance transmission efficiencies by three orders of magnitude compared to conventional radiative networks without the metamaterial textile, and confine wireless communication to within 10 cm of the body. We also show that the approach can offer wireless power transfer that is robust to motion and textile-based wireless touch sensing.
Here’s a video from the University of Singapore showing off the new textiles:
Study in Nature Electronics: Wireless body sensor networks based on metamaterial textiles