Heart sensors in fabrics? This is what the clothes of the future will look like

Everyone is thinking about our health, and especially our hearts. Many devices already keep an eye on it, and now smart fabrics are being added

Let's get ready for a momentous change in the clothing industry, which may soon integrate sensors to discreetly measure heart rate, and maybe not only that. Innovative fabrics, in short, but that like the "old ones" will be machine-washable.

Soon you may no longer need to wear a smartwatch or a dedicated device to monitor your heartbeat because you'll just have to wear a shirt, a sweater or any other garment in direct contact with your skin. Scientists at Swiss company Empa have, in fact, managed to develop polymeric optical fibers that have proven flexible enough to make fabrics in which to integrate sensors. The idea originally came about to allow doctors and nurses to check if a patient is developing bedsores, but later on a lot of other possible scenarios opened up.

How the fabric was made

The fiber is created by fusing and spinning two polymers, one that transmits light-based data and another that serves as a coating. This was no small feat - the team explains to the journal Popular Science - because, usually, it's not possible to melt and then spin optical fibers - which are notoriously rigid - but this technique makes it possible to produce them in large quantities.

Fiber optics become fashionable

The researchers - before jumping into the consumer sector - turned to the hospital sector, which could use this type of clothing equipped with sensors to monitor vital parameters without risking the sores that produce traditional sensors. This detail, in turn, could minimize the likelihood of patients developing further illness. Researchers, however, hope to expand their flexible fiber technology to track oxygen, blood pressure and other extremely important data. And it's reasonable to expect that this technology, sooner or later, will be adopted beyond the medical field. So don't be surprised if one day you buy a piece of fitness apparel that tracks vital parameters, such as heart rate, without any obvious sign of where the technology is because it's directly in the fabric.