The Internet of Things — and wearable Health Tech devices in particular — depend on sensors to gather data from the surrounding environment which then gets transformed into useful information. One key sense for these devices is pressure. This can tell you how much weight is being applied to a surface or body part. One problem is that many of the existing pressure sensors are discrete and rigid components, when often the surfaces of interest are rounded and flexible.
Researchers at LG Innotek have created a textile that senses pressure. Based on polyurethane plastic, the sensors are lightweight and flexible. The system measures pressure across an area by sensing the change in the electrical capacitance of the material. Electrodes on either side of the plastic material get closer or farther from each other as the material is deformed, so the system can measure pressure across a range of forces.
The material has a wide range of potential applications for ergonomic seating and athletic products. One particularly interesting use in healthcare is to measure the pressure on different areas of the foot during walking. This information could aid in rehabilitation and in determining a person’s risk of falling. The company plans to have this material in mass production before the end of this year.