Highly integrated wireless sensing for body area network applications

The combination of highly integrated radio systems-on-chips, ultra-low-power processing, and smart textiles enables body area networks and novel human-to-machine applications.

Novel concepts in the fields of human machine interfaces (HMIs) and body area networks (BANs)—sensors placed around the body—are paving the way toward tomorrow’s Internet of Things (IoT). New devices can monitor a variety of physiological parameters such as heart rate, stress, position, and motion. BANs can collect information about an individual’s health, fitness, and energy expenditure. There are applications of these concepts in gaming, where sensors can measure a player’s motion and allow a video game to enrich the player’s immersion experience. There is also a potential use in assistive robotics for medical patients or disabled people. Physical therapists may be able to conduct rehabilitation exercises using a robotics setup that controls and assists limb movements under remote surveillance. Lifestyle and sports applications could allow user technology to go beyond the classic chest strap monitors and wrist computers. In this context, the European Union project Wear-a-BAN1 aims to develop novel implementation concepts that will advance these new uses of HMI and BAN technologies.

Designers need to integrate BAN sensors directly into the fabric of garments using smart textiles, and sensors must transmit information wirelessly. A key technical objective of the Wear-a-BAN project is the integration of radio integrated circuits (ICs) and modules with body-worn antennas. The principal challenge in achieving this objective was to address the contradictory requirements of antennas. They need to be large enough to transmit signals even in complex propagation conditions. Conversely, they should also be as small and unobtrusive as possible for the comfort of the wearer.

To fulfill these needs, the Wear-a-BAN team developed a smart textile solution. Our solution consists of a textile-based antenna.2 It is bendable and comfortable enough to be easily inserted into garments, while still yielding excellent performance. We used a textile system-in-package (SiP) concept3 for both the physical realization of the antenna and for the electrical connection from the antenna feeds to the radio module. The resulting unit underwent specific reliability and stress tests, including temperature cycling, performance with increased humidity, and bending. … (Read more)

Source: Spie.org