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Intelligent training with FitnessSHIRT and MENTORbike

By Maja Bosanac
11 November 2013

fitnessshirtA group of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have developed an intelligent sports shirt called FitnessSHIRT. The shirt can read out physiological signals such as pulse, breathing and changes in heart rate continuously. The interpreted data can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet PC. When combined with an electric bike and a smartphone, the system could be used as an intelligent training device.

The trend in clothing industry is shifting toward intelligent, proactive, high-tech textiles like self-cleaning jackets, gloves that recognize toxins, and ski clothes with integrated navigational devices to make life easier for those wearing them.

However, most intelligent clothing is at the prototype stage and it’s not commercially available. The intelligent shirt developed at Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS), is expected to be commercially available sometime next year, as an investor is already on-board.

Conductive textile electrodes are integrated into the shirt’s material and they are used to capture cardio activity of the wearer. FitnessSHIRT has an elastic band that senses the motion of the chest during breathing, and a removable electronic unit. This unit digitizes the raw data and calculates additional parameters including pulse rate and breathing rate with the help of algorithms. The unit also has accelerometers used to sense the movement of the user.

The data can be sent via radio link to a smartphone or a PC, where they can be further analyzed. These parameters form the basis for judging vital functions like stress, performance, exertion, or relaxation.

“The FitnessSHIRT can be employed in a number of ways. It offers completely new options for the pursuit of sports, leisure activities, and wellness, as well as options for the medical branch”, said Christian Hofmann, an engineer at the Fraunhofer IIS.

It could act as a training aid used to provide seniors or rehabilitation patients with feedback on their vital signs during exercises or cycling, and protect them from overexertion. FitnessSHIRT could be a valuable accessory for athletes because it is more comfortable to wear than a chest strap while providing more detailed information.

Fraunhofer IIS is partnered with BitifEye Digital Test Solutions to combine FitnessSHIRT with MENTORbike – a new type of training device consisting of a edelec, a smartphone, and an intelligent user service site on the internet. The sensors that are attached to the rider record all the relevant physical data.

FitnessSHIRT will utilize a wireless connection via smartphone to the pedelec and the user service site on the internet, where the data can be viewed, analyzed, and documented. The smartphone mounted on the bicycle handlebars collects the vital parameters as well as the physical data such as the spent energy and the speed.

“If the pulse rate exceeds a maximum value of 150, for example, the rider is supported by the motor taking some of the load. If the pulse rate falls below a value of 80 beats per minute, the electric motor is throttled back and the pedal loading increased again. The motor output adapts automatically to the fitness of the cyclist”, said Markus Gratzfeld, an engineer at BitifEye.

In this way, users are directed to an optimal level of training at all times. Rehabilitation patients, especially persons with cardiovascular disease, could monitor their performance limits better, exercise more confidently, and increase their range of movement.

Fraunhofer IIS researchers plan to make differential analysis of cardiac function with their FitnessSHIRT and also monitor the heart for arrhythmia. According to the researchers, physicians could be able to use the FitnessSHIRT for long-term heart monitoring.

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