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Addison firm puts
'smart' in sensor shirt
Dallas Morning News
By Alan Goldstein
An Addison start-up is developing standards that
would enable diagnostic medical information to
be transmitted wirelessly from sensors embedded
in a "smart shirt."
Sensatex/Lifelink Inc. says
the shirt, which can be made from any fabric,
could be used to monitor vital signs such as a
patient's heart or respiration rate. The information
would then be transmitted to a doctor over cellular
or satellite networks.
Although lots of companies
have been working on technology to "make physicians
wireless, we're making patients wireless," said
Jeffrey Wolf, chief executive of Sensatex/Lifelink.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology
developed the shirt for a project funded by the
military, which was looking for ways to monitor
the physical condition of soldiers during battle.
Sensatex/Lifelink said it has the exclusive worldwide
rights to commercialize the research.
to see this type of technology," said Jeffrey
Kagan, an Atlanta telecommunications analyst.
"Distance medicine, along with distance learning,
is a wave of the future. This is a piece of the
Conceivably, the garments could be worn
during any activity. The company says that pilots,
hikers, scuba divers or firefighters eventually
could wear them. But mostly, the technology is
aimed at patients in hospitals and at home. Shorter
hospital stays have led to more home care, which
has led to a growing need for remote diagnostic
technology, Mr. Wolf said. Wired devices now in
use by bedridden elderly patients or by infants
who were born prematurely are cumbersome, he said.
Moreover, such devices transmit data only periodically,
using conventional phone lines. The wireless service
using Sensatex/Lifelink technology would be capable
of transmitting information in real time.
shirts must be worn against the body to produce
results and can be customized, with sensors placed
in various positions for different functions.
Each shirt, which would have its own battery,
is woven without seams. Copper strands in the
fabric allow for a continuous flow of current.
Sensatex is backed by Seed-One Ventures LLC, an
incubator with an unusual strategy of investing
in only one company at a time. Seed-One seeks
opportunities that involve cutting-edge science,
strong patents and vast potential commercial uses,
said Mr. Wolf, who is also chief executive of
the New York venture firm. Mr. Wolf declined to
offer specific financial information about the
'clothing' used in monitoring, surgery
MEDICAL DEVICE WEEK
By Don Long, Medical Device Week Managing Editor
"The Human Genome Project is a great advance,
there's no doubt about that," says Sundareyan
Jayaraman, PhD, a professor in the School of Textile
and Fiber Engineering at the Georgia Institute
of Technology (Georgia Tech; Atlanta, Georgia).
But a more immediate and achievable advance in
health care could be derived from "a rich source
of data, acquired continuously, concerning how
the body acts in real situations," he told Medical
While experts say it may take from 10 to more
than 20 years to turn the benefits of gene mapping
into commercialized products, achieving the rich
data stream envisioned by Jayaraman may be just
around the corner - or, more precisely, produced
by the shirts on our backs. Jayaraman has just
released information on a fabric interwoven with
plastic polymer optical sensors and then made
into a basic T-shirt. Dubbed the Smart Shirt,
the special optical fibers in the material can
provide an ongoing stream of vital sign information
while a person goes about his or her day-to-day
activities - that is, truly at the point of care.
The challenge to develop a type of monitoring
clothing first came from a U.S. Navy grant, but
Jayaraman says he soon realized that the concept's
greatest benefit would be in a variety of potential
health care applications. These could range from
shirts worn by congestive heart failure patients
to pajamas for infants feared at risk for sudden
infant death syndrome.
These and other broad applications for the material
will now be developed through an agreement between
Georgia Tech Research Corp. and Sensatex (New
York), a start-up company funded by Seed One Ventures
(New York). Jeffrey Wolf, chief executive officer
of Sensatex, said that in essence, the shirt is
a "wearable motherboard, providing information
from a wearable environment." He said an additional
key to the system is its wireless technology:
"You can monitor patients, for instance, with
a Holter monitor, without wires down through the
patient's body," Wolf told Medical Device Week.
"What it also means," he said, "is that you can
integrate additional sensors to get even more
information than you can get now because of reducing
the need for wires, and you can have these [sensors]
speak to one another."
Sensatex will seek FDA clearance through a 510(k)
application because the shirt and its optical
wiring will be developed as a platform, offered
to other companies whose specific sensors and
applications already have been approved. He sees
the technology's commercialization coming as early
Besides monitoring heart patients and others at
risk, the next-most-usable application will be
in monitoring subjects participating in clinical
trials, to continuously read their reactions to
drugs or devices; for measuring sports performance;
and in geriatrics. These can then be expanded
to a wealth of uses in the military, police and
fire protection sectors. Smart Shirt's ability
to produce accurate, real-time results, says Wolf,
"represents a quantum leap in health care monitoring,
The potential applications for the technology
are enormous and SensaTex is well poised to pursue
Georgia Tech Research Corp. has received an equity
stake in Sensatex, and a portion of the revenue
generated by sales of the Smart Shirt will support
other research projects at Georgia Tech.
The heart that wears a jacket
In another development in medical "clothing,"
the heart of a 41-year-old woman was recently
fitted with a kind of jacket to provide it greater
support. Performed at the Hospital of the University
of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania),
the procedure involved implanting a special mesh-like
polyester material around her heart to give it
support and constraint, the surgeons also repairing
a leaking mitral valve in the process. The woman
was suffering cardiomyopathy, a balloon-like expansion
of the heart muscle resulting in a gradual loss
of pumping function. Known as the Cardiac Support
Device (CSD) and made by Acorn Cardiovascular
(St. Paul, Minnesota), the jacket was slipped
around the heart and then stitched in place. It
is designed to prevent further enlargement of
the heart muscle and boost its compromised efficiency.
The jacket is placed around the heart through
open-chest surgery similar to that required during
coronary-artery bypass grafts.
Michael Acker, MD, led the first U.S. implantation.
He had previously participated in an implant procedure
at a hospital in Berlin, Germany, where a clinical
trial is showing positive results, according to
Acorn. Five million Americans are diagnosed with
congestive heart failure, and 400,000 new cases
are discovered every year, according to the American
Heart Association (Dallas, Texas). The CSD "may
offer a new approach for treating heart failure,"
said Donald Rohrbaugh, president and CEO of Acorn.
He called the first U.S. implant "an important
step in our clinical investigation and is supported
by the broad-based research we have conducted."
The continuing U.S. trials will involve two randomized
patient groups: those treated with the CSD and
those without. "It is our belief, based on extensive
studies, that those patients in whom the jacket
is implanted will have improved heart function,"
said Acker, the co-principle investigator in the
trials and surgical director of the Heart Transplantation
& Mechanical Assist Program at the Philadelphia
hospital. "If we can sustain the clinical improvement
for an appropriate length of time, the heart 'jacket'
may prevent the need for transplantation in some
Licensing pact landed
for 'smart shirt'
Reprinted with permission
from The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution.
Further reproduction, retransmission or distribution
of these materials without the prior written consent
of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution,
and any copyright holder identified in the material's
copyright notice, is prohibited.
By Ernest Holsendolph/Staff
The Georgia Tech "smart shirt," which
can measure human body characteristics and functions
continuously, may be headed for new uses through
a new licensing agreement with a New York firm.
The company, SensaTex Inc., will treat the ''smart
shirt'' as a platform for performing a variety
of applications or uses, said Jeffrey Wolf, chief
executive of the Manhattan-based firm.
"Our first products will likely be in the
medical monitoring area," said Wolf in an
interview on Tuesday. "But other uses could
range anywhere from athletic or sports monitoring,
surveillance on scuba divers or various forms
of wearable computing."
The ''smart shirt'' was developed in 1996 by a
team at Georgia Tech, headed by Sundaresan Jayaraman,
a professor in the School of Textile and Fiber
Engineering, working under a contract with the
The shirt, composed of fabric with imbedded optical
and conductive circuitry, would be worn as a foundation
garment such as a T-shirt, and would be attached
to the body.
Among the first applications that could have commercial
use, said Wolf, include plans to use the shirt
technology to produce garments that medical patients
can wear. It could discreetly relay information
to physicians or other medical staff about heart
function, respiration, temperature and other indicators
The shirt, which was originally developed mostly
with military use in mind, could soon produce
revenue from a variety of sources, said Wolf.
Jayaraman said he plans to channel the school's
share of revenue into further research at the
"It is extremely gratifying to know that
the results of our research will indeed make a
positive impact on the quality of life for individuals
in the real world," Jayaraman said.
A specialist in the relationship between textile
engineering and computing, Jayaraman said he was
passing along the work of commercial product development
while concentrating on further research.
On the research front, just a few weeks ago Jayaraman
and his team signed on to participate in Tech's
new "Digital House" project. It is a
research project located in a frame house adjacent
to campus, where teams of researchers in digital
communication will be exploring ways technology
can help families in their homes.
Among the assignments in the house, the ''smart
shirt'' specialists will be examining the use
of the garment to monitor infants and ward off
sudden infant death syndrome and watch for other
That application, as well as commercial uses devised
by SensaTex, could feature remote monitoring of
body functions, such as on different floors in
a house or even across town.
"The 'smart shirt' represents a quantum leap
in health care monitoring, producing accurate,
real-time results," said Wolf. "The
potential applications for the technology are
enormous, and SensaTex is well-poised to pursue
The company, as an early priority, will seek FDA
approval for the ''smart shirt'' after conducting
human testing of the garment in a clinical setting.
Wolf said the company has had valuable experience
with regulators in previous work with a Virginia-based
company that produced medical technology.
A key to the commercial advantage of the ''smart
shirt'' is that it will be less costly than current
monitoring systems. He said he is confident the
shirt will be available to consumers in the first
quarter of 2001.
SensaTex has obtained its front-end capitalization
from a venture capital group called Seed-One Ventures,
which Wolf heads as president.
In the SensaTex deal, Tech takes partial equity
in exchange for the license and plans to channel
proceeds from sales back to campus projects.
In the Virginia project, SensaTex's founders,
Wolf and Jeff Himawan, vice president and chief
science officer, worked with academic research
from the University of Virginia.
Wolf said one of their recent ventures, Elusys
Therapeutics, successfully developed novel pharmaceutical
products to clear the blood of a wide range of
Tech 2010: #15 Well
Dressed; The Suit That Makes You Feel as Good
THE NEW YORK TIMES
By Natasha Singer
In laboratories at the Imperial College of London,
surrounded by perfume vials and surgical microtubes,
researchers are designing the must-have outfit
of the fashion future: the aroma shirt. Once it
is equipped with electronic sensors that react
to changes in the body's vital signs, the garment
will know when to deliver scents to the cuffs
and neckline from a perfume reservoir hidden in
its lining. Aromatherapy enthusiasts will, no
doubt, embrace a shirt that can respond to stress
signals by circulating calming vanilla scents
or emit energy-boosting geranium spritzes during
interminable afternoon meetings.
''Pulsing liquid through clothes is not new --
look at NASA's spacesuit-cooling system,'' explains
Jenny Tillotson, a self-described ''sensory designer''
who invented the idea of cologne clothing for
her dissertation at the Royal College of Art in
London. She is now experimenting with fragrance-conductive
fabrics for Charmed Technology, a Los Angeles-based
company that manufactures wearable devices, and
hopes to complete an early prototype for the smell
shirt next spring. A primitive version, designed
like a circulatory system, with tiny, hollow fiber
veins woven into the fabric, may go on sale within
the next five years at British department stores.
''We can engineer the delivery system to release
a whole range of smells for different times of
the day or the month, from your favorite Thierry
Mugler perfume while you're at work, to your partner's
pheromones to turn you on when you're on your
way home at night,'' she explains.
''A garment that senses your moods and, if you're
getting too aroused, squirts out a smell to calm
you down, opens up a whole new way of life,''
Tillotson continues. ''Just imagine, you put on
your pajamas and they monitor you and kick out
smell molecules to give you a natural, uninterrupted,
even deeper sleep than usual.''
Its gimmicky allure might make the aromatherapy
shirt the first commercial success of digital
dressing, but it represents only one of the many
''smart''-garment options that information-processing
fabrics and data-conductive fibers make possible.
The research into these clothes -- at universities,
defense facilities and industrial labs like DuPont's
-- indicate an anatomical shift from passive apparel
that simply looks good and protects us from the
elements to active multitasking attire equipped
with data sensors and chips that allow it to ''think''
and act autonomously. The promise of such ''intelligent''
fashion lies in consumers' ability to customize
it to their lifestyles, health and even meteorological
The first smart garment due to go on sale next
year is a T-shirt that monitors vital signs, based
on a prototype developed at Georgia Tech's School
of Textile and Fiber Engineering and financed
by the Navy. The conductive filaments woven into
the light-weight white shirt, officially called
the Georgia Tech Wearable Motherboard, will wirelessly
communicate data to a computer feedback mechanism
the size of a pager and attached to the hip. The
medical T-shirt measures heart rate, temperature
and pulse rate and is initially intended for use
by soldiers (because the shirt can pinpoint bullet
wounds and relay information to remote triage
teams) and babies (because the shirt can monitor
breathing and safeguard against sudden infant
death syndrome). Its breakthrough, like the novelty
of the aromatherapy shirt, lies in having unobtrusive
mechanisms. The sensors and communication apparatus
are woven or knitted directly into the fabric,
eliminating the need for attaching electrodes
or thick cables to clothing.
But wearing self-regulating technology also can
make us vulnerable. Those concerned about privacy
issues might worry that employers or health insurers
could hack into the T-shirt's medical data. Still,
its low manufacturing cost, easy maintenance (it's
washable because the conductive fibers are plastic-coated
like telephone wires) and promise of long-distance
medical care outweigh the security risks. Homebound
senior citizens could wirelessly hook up their
heart-rate garments to doctors' monitors in faraway
hospitals, the way burglar alarms connect to police
stations. Because it responds to the body's vital
signs, the T-shirt also could be modified as a
training garment for athletes or as a chameleonic
fashion statement that changes colors when its
wearer's pulse quickens. More significant, the
smart fabric has wider implications as a database
from which information can be sent or retrieved.
Sundaresan Jayaraman, a professor at Georgia Tech,
calls the T-shirt he invented a motherboard because,
like its namesake, its infrastructure contains
all the circuitry necessary for a computer and
monitor, along with slots for a central processing
unit, but not the processor itself. Within 5 to
10 years, Jayaraman predicts, people will no longer
carry cell phones or electronic organizers. Instead
they'll dial or type on wireless fabric keyboards
knitted into or embroidered on their clothes --
or even talk into voice-recognition shirt collars
-- and send the messages via a small electronic
device, akin to a pager, attached to a belt or
contained in a watch face.
Other smart clothing may work without chips. Climate-sensitive
textiles that emit or hoard heat as their internal
components change from liquid to solid eventually
will allow the creation of thermal suits that
maintain climbers' body temperatures on Mount
Everest and keep them cool on camel rides through
the Sahara. NASA has financed research with implications
for the fashion industry: for example, sweaters
due out this fall -- made with outlast, a microencapsulated
paraffin -- respond to body temperature and store
and release heat in an endless cycle.
''In a normal sweater, you overheat,'' says Jonathan
Erb, the triathelete who runs Outlast Technologies,
and who uses the smart textile in his gloves,
socks and bike helmet. ''With outlast, the sweater
keeps you warm outside in the winter so you don't
need a coat. It keeps you comfortable indoors
so you're not getting hot, taking it off, getting
cold and putting it back on again every five minutes.''
Sporting-goods manufacturers are experimenting
with other smart performance fabrics that may
eventually surface, like Gore-Tex, in suburban
malls. In the meantime, the idea of clothes that
think, or react at least, already is mobilizing
ready-to-wear designers, making cybercouture look
like an inevitability. Neil Barrett, whose latest
models for Samsonite Blacklabel Travel Wear center
on ''fashion functions,'' is one of the early
high-fashion adopters of smart clothing. There
are ''reading jackets'' in the spring-summer 2000
collection that conceal tiny pop-up lamps; ''voice
jackets'' with built-in cell phone earpieces;
and ergonomically designed ''antistress car coats''
with high-tech fabric that adjusts to a car seat
and allows a driver to sit comfortably. These
utility-chic styles are analog designs outfitted
with simple devices -- but they presage digital
suits woven with data-conductive fibers -- and
they're already smart in both senses of the word.
LIFE SPECIAL ISSUE
Medical Miracles for the Next Millennium, Fall
1998 That basic T-shirt isnāt only the most comfortable
thing in your closet. Soon it will be the smartest.
Using plastic optical fibers woven into a T-shirt,
engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology
have come up with a "wearable motherboard" which
can monitor heart rate, temperature, respiration
and other bodily functions. Some vital signs can
be monitored directly by sensors woven into the
shirt; for other functions, a person fastens sensors
to his or her body - the kind used in electrocardiograms,
for example - and attaches them to the T-shirt
with snaps. The signals can be transmitted to
a receiver in a watch or bounced to a satellite
and then back down to anywhere on earth.
The smart shirt was developed for the armed services
as a way of tracking the health of soldiers on
the battlefield. Medics miles away can find out
immediately when a soldier goes down and how bad
his injury is. Sensors can locate a gunshot wound
and monitor vital signs while the medics travel
to the scene. Tiny microphones in the shirt can
instantly put caregivers in contact with the injured.
Dr. Sundaresan Jayaraman, head of the research
team at Georgia Tech, hopes to infiltrate civilian
society with this technology within five years.
A postoperative patient could continuously be
monitored as he recovers at home. Attendants in
nursing homes could keep a closer watch on multiple
patients. And law enforcement officers could wear
the T-shirts while on their beats and be monitored
back at headquarters.
"I can plug into any kind of sensor to monitor
anything," says Jayaraman, suggesting applications
for athletes concerned about stress or for parents
concerned about sudden infant death syndrome,"This
could be as ubiquitous as a home-alarm system."
The cost of the shirt? Astonishingly, Jayaraman
says, it wonāt be more that $35 (sensors not included).
For those with a taste for something more expensive,
thereās the Harry Winston "Heartthrob" broach.
Sensors in the rubies make the gems glow with
every heartbeat. Price tag: a cool $500,000.