A wearable sensor that can analyse sweat and send the biometric data to a smartphone in real time, has been developed by a team of talented researchers in the US.
The perspiration analysis system came to life thanks to a collaboration between the University of California Berkley and the Stanford University School of Medicine. It’s claimed the prototype device can deliver richer physiological information than current fitness trackers.
It’s hoped the device could be a major benefit for athletes or patients to alert them about fatigue, dehydration, overheating and other health problems.
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Sweat can apparently unlock a host of data and has been used to diagnose diseases, detect drug use and help improve athletic performance. The difference here is that data can be provided in real time or continuously to give an almost instant heads up of your body’s current state.
The device itself is made up of a disposable five sensor array and a reusable circuit board that can be built into a wristband or a headband. Attaching itself to the skin, the flexible wearable can generate electric signals that measure and detect skin temperature, glucose, lactate, sodium and potassium. That data is then wirelessly transmitted to your smartphone for further analysis.
Ali Javey a professor of electrical engineering at Berkley and the lead on the project, outlined the benefits of a sweat detecting wearable explaining, “The idea is to have this thumbs-up or thumbs-down device that will give real-time information: it could provide an alarm that you need to take some medication, or that you’re getting dehydrated and need to drink some water.”
The research team tested the device by getting a group of volunteers to engage in a series of activities including cycling and running at different intensities. Sensor data was then compared to sweat samples to measure accuracy.
Javey and his team are hoping to add more sensors in the future and have already applied for patents on the sweat-detecting technology. The research team are also looking at the medical applications of measuring sweat this way and there’s hope it could help detect symptoms related to stress.
According to Javey though, there’s still a question mark over the accuracy of tapping into your sweat compared to blood tests. That’s because the content of our sweat can vary for a host of different reasons. There’s also the fact that we’re not always sweating during the day or night. But it’s seen as a more non-invasive alternative to running blood tests to gain similar insights into your body’s physiological state.
Companies like Fitbit and Withings have spoken about the potential of adding advanced sensors to its fitness trackers in the future, so maybe sweat monitoring could be another one to add to the list.