Beyond Apple Watch, Measuring Health Data may be coming to next-gen Smart Clothing with integrated Circuitry
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to smart clothing and accessories that could measure health vitals and even provide another way for taking an ECG and much more. It may even work in concert with Apple Watch to take more accurate ECG readings. You know when Apple engineer Daniel Podhajny is listed as one of the inventors, it's a serious invention. Podhajny is listed on many Nike patents while working on Nike Flyknit breathable material runners.
In Apple's patent background they note that it may be desirable to form items using materials such as fabric. For example, wearable items may be formed from fabric. Some wearable items may include sensing circuitry. Control circuitry in the item may use the sensing circuitry to gather information on a user's health and other data. Output devices in a wearable item may provide output to a user.
If care is not taken, fabric-based items such as these may not offer desired features. For example, a fabric-based item with sensing circuitry may not be able to gather measurements accurately, may not be able to interact with external equipment effectively, or may be difficult for a user to keep clean.
Apple's invention covers a fabric-based item may be provide with a stretchable band. The stretchable band may be formed from a ring-shaped strip of stretchable fabric having an opening configured to fit around a body part of a user. Circuitry may be coupled to strands of material in the stretchable band. The circuitry may include sensor circuitry for making measurement on the body part such as electrocardiogram measurements, blood pressure measurements, respiration rate measurements, and other measurements.
When being worn on the body part of the user, the stretchable band may hold the sensor circuitry against the body part to facilitate gathering accurate measurements.
The fabric-based item may be configured to sustain relatively high temperatures such as those associated with laundering of clothing. For example, the fabric-based item may have supercapacitors for energy storage and other electrical components that can be laundered in hot water and dried in a clothes dryer without damage.
To withstand damage when the fabric-based item is stretched, fabric may include strengthening strands and conductive strands may be provided with meandering paths and more slack than the strengthening strands.
Wireless communications circuitry in the fabric-based item may be used to communicate wirelessly with external electronic equipment. A coil formed from conductive strands in the fabric-based item may be used by wireless power receiving circuitry in the fabric-based item to receive wireless power. The coil may have one or more turns that run around the ring-shaped strip of stretchable fabric forming the stretchable band so that the coil surrounds a central opening in the stretchable band.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative fabric-based item; FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an illustrative item such as a band that is formed from elastic fabric.
Apple further notes that item 10 of FIG. 2 may use blood pressure sensors to gather blood pressure information, may use heart rate sensors to gather heart rate information, may include blood sugar sensors for gathering blood sugar levels, may use blood oxygen sensors to measure a user's blood oxygen level, may use accelerometers to measure a user's activity, etc.
Health data, intentional user input (e.g., button press input on force sensors, touch sensors, and/or other input devices, voice commands gathered with a microphone, gesture input, tap input, etc.), environmental readings, and/or other information on the user and the user's surroundings may be gathered by devices (#22 of FIG. 1 above).
Apple's patent FIG. 8 below is an exploded perspective view of an illustrative elastic band and associated fabric showing how the band and fabric may be joined together by sewing; FIG. 3 is a side view of illustrative fabric with circuitry; and FIG. 4 is a diagram of a portion of a fabric item having an antenna. Not shown is FIG. 5 showing a configuration with "multiple antennas."
Lastly, Apple notes that the yarns for the fabric of item #10 may be formed from polymer, metal, glass, graphite, ceramic, natural materials as cotton or bamboo, or other organic and/or inorganic materials and combinations of these materials.
Conductive coatings such as metal coatings may be formed on non-conductive material. For example, plastic yarns and monofilaments may be coated with metal to make them conductive. Reflective coatings such as metal coatings may be applied to make yarns and monofilaments reflective. Yarns may be formed from a bundle of bare metal wires or metal wire intertwined with insulating monofilaments (as examples).
Apple's patent application 20190298265 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q3 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Daniel Podhajny: Product Designer. Daniel previously worked at Nike – Knit Exploration Innovator.
Steven Keating: Design Engineer, Special Projects Group. Keating previously worked at Google X.
Benjamin Grena: Hardware Design Engineer – Special Projects Group.
Jerzy Guterman: Antenna Engineer
David Kindlon: Design Engineer-Special Projects