Biomedical Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
WBS are complex systems that embed several technological innovations (in
electronics, material, processing and algorithms, materials, …), but above all they
address an important issue in the management of patients: the acceptance and use
of WBS thanks to the user-friendly approach that allows doctors to collect impor-
tant information and clinical data in the daily lives of the subjects. Indeed, simple
direct observations on the impact of clinical interventions on mobility, the level
of autonomy, and quality of life can be made by means of wearable systems with
minimal intrusiveness or significant impact on the real lives of patients. These fac-
tors are crucial, for instance, in chronic pathology management.
This is made possible thanks to the development and evolution of smart gar-
ments, i.e. clothing that can become solutions to continuously monitor patients
through the non-invasive measurement of biomedical parameters, by integrating
directly in their fibers a technological architecture of miniaturized sensors and pro-
cessing systems. Such sensing elements, incorporated into the fabric of the gar-
ments, have opened endless possibilities for monitoring patients everywhere and
for long periods of time. This is of particular importance in modern medicine and
the future, with citizens-patients becoming active players in the processes con-
nected to their health (prevention, monitoring, treatment). Being wearable and
“normal” for a subject (looking like a standard underwear item), WBS represent
an ideal platform for non-intrusive, continuous, remote multi-parametric monitor-
ing of the health status for primary and secondary prevention, early detection and
management of diseases (e.g. cardiovascular and/or respiratory pathologies), but
also as a support for the care of the elderly or disabled people [ 3 ].
Generally a WBS is composed of four main elements [ 4 ].
The first component is the first Human-Machine-Interface layer constituted
by a transducer able to sense bio-electrical/chemical/physical properties or sig-
nals from the human body, or otherwise to deliver to the body itself electrical (e.g.
small currents or voltages or electro-magnetic fields), or chemical drugs or other
substances, or physical signals/actions (e.g. mechanical vibrations, heating, etc.).
For these purposes different solutions are applied: from woven/knitted/embroi-
dered textile electrodes for sensing, to micro/mini actuators for mechanical actions
(such as vibrations at different frequencies) or chemical delivery of substances.
The second part is the connection solution, that is the input way to the case
of the WBS where electronics is inserted. In its simplicity this is a crucial point,
up-to-now poorly studied in WBS, but solutions are already available among
industrial mini-connectors. The ongoing systems' miniaturizations will push this
research towards new solutions.
The third component is the case that is directly related both to the electronics
that it has to contain, and to the body location where it is placed onto, and to the
body support or fixing element to the body itself.
About this issue, to define body positions, case dimensions, and fixing/support
elements, some interesting studies and experiences were carried out by Gemperle
et al. a decade ago. Instead, new technological trends push solutions towards tex-
tile integration and flexible electronics.
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