Intelligent clothes – Smart Fabrics arrive in the workplace
More than 100 years before Internet-connected devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches became part of everyday life; human beings were enjoying the benefits of the world’s very first wearable technology, embedding electrical items into garments and jewelry.
Now, by adding connected sensors to fabrics and textiles, we are beginning to write a new chapter in the long history of integrating functions into clothes and to discover the potential of Smart Fabrics to improve our lives.
These Smart Fabrics could have a very real impact on social and economic problems today. To take one example, over 70% of occupational diseases are related to musculoskeletal disorders, among which low back pain is the most common. In Europe alone, 100 million people suffer from these disorders, with an annual cost of 240 million euros.
At Worldline, we are working with multinational verification and testing company SGS to develop a smarter way to tackle this problem: the Wearlumb.
Meet the Wearlumb
Wearlumb is a smart t-shirt designed to minimize the risks and costs of lower back disorders. It uses a network of motion sensors to measure a person’s posture at work, sending this information via Bluetooth for automated real-time analysis on a tablet.
Until now, SGS and other testing companies have been reliant on intrusive and expensive procedures when inspecting a worker’s posture. They have had to send employees to film people at work and then analyze the video according to OWAS methodology (the Ovako Working posture Analysis System). Now, there is an easier way.
The Wearlumb t-shirt, which is available in versions for men and women, removes the need for invasive and costly video-based processes which take a person away from their workplace.
As the data is collected and transmitted from a Bluetooth modem to the tablet, an application on the tablet analyzes the person’s posture according to OWAS. It assesses the risks of incorrect postures in order to prevent lumbar problems and provide early warning of lumbar fatigue symptoms.
With the data provided by the t-shirt’s three flexion sensors, six elongation sensors, nine temperature sensors and five accelerometers, SGS can provide accurate insights into a worker’s position and suggest ways for improvement.
As well as improving the quality of results, we estimate that Wearlumb reduces the time needed for the procedure by 50% and cuts the cost of intervention by 40%.
Out of the lab and onto the catwalk?
Products such as the Wearlumb will be of interest not only to the inspection and certificate sector.
Manufacturers, constructors and industrial firms could also make use of innovations such as these to make sure that their employees are working in correct postures and reduce risks in the workplace.
We also believe there will be major applications for smart fabrics in sectors such as fashion, transport and security.
While the Wearlumb is a B2B product, there are already B2C smart t-shirts available for use by consumers in sports and training.
Three partners have developed Wearlumb jointly and share the intellectual property. SGS is contributing its expertise in OWAS and verification, while Worldline is the technological partner.
The third partner is Eurecat, a technology center operated by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain. Eurecat is responsible for producing the t-shirt and sewing the sensors into the fabric.
The next step for Wearlumb is to industrialize the manufacturing process and reduce the costs of production.
As Smart Fabrics leave the lab and join the factory, it will not be long before this breakthrough technology powers a whole new generation of wearable applications in our daily lives.
For more information on Smart Fabrics, read the latest white paper published by Atos Scientific Community here