Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have designed a novel way for wearable devices to interconnect with one another using conductive textiles. Think of it like a body-worn network that connects several gadgets at once, boosting their transmitted data using a signal that’s 1,000 times stronger than conventional technologies, while simultaneously improving their battery life in the process.
Most wearable sensors, like smartwatches, connect to smartphones via a wireless signal, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Those waves travel in every direction, meaning most of the energy they produce is dumped into the surrounding area when trying to connect to other devices, thus reducing battery life to inefficiency.
The researcher’s solution to this problem was to infuse regular clothing with metamaterial textiles, which serve to create a wearable network, linking those devices together. Instead of sending signals in every direction, data travels along the metamaterial as ‘surface waves’ all around the clothing, close to the body. Since the data isn’t transmitted in all directions, the devices use much less power in transmission and can detect weaker signals.
The researchers developed their wearable network using stainless steel fibers arranged into a comb-shape strip deposited on top of a layer of clothing, with an unpatterned conductor situated underneath. The researchers state they can arrange the metamaterial in any pattern required to connect all areas of the body.
The team used computer modeling to create the design, which maximizes communication if the RF range with optimized efficiency, which is then fabricated using a laser cutter and attached using fabric adhesive. The researchers state that their wearable network has applications in health monitoring, medical interventions, and human-machine interfaces.