In 2016, the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC), a FlexTech-managed consortium focused on human performance monitoring technology, and funded in part by the Air Force Research Laboratories (AFRL), contracted with a broad-based team of industry and academia researchers, to develop a wearable monitor based on sweat analysis. The device is delivering excellent performance and reliable, wireless, actionable human performance data in a non-invasive nature.
The device, simply nick-named, the ‘patch,’ provides real-time feedback on sweat electrolytes and hydration status of the wearer as part of a larger project to predict fatigue and enhance individual performance. Continuous monitoring of physiological and biological parameters improves performance and medical outcomes by assessing overall health status and alerting for life-saving interventions.
The NBMC patch project includes the non-invasive measurement of biomarkers in sweat including: electrolytes such as Sodium, Potassium, and stress – small molecules and proteins, such as cortisol and Orexin A. The patch seeks to exceed the capabilities of other devices on the market with its combination of wireless communications, microfluidics system, selective biochemical sensing, and, critically, its ability to be produced for health and human-performance monitoring devices. Technical challenges remain in ensuring readings are accurately and robustly assessing the total body hydration.
The thin wireless patch device is the initial result of an on-going NBMC program entitled “Wearable Device for Dynamic Assessment of Hydration Status.” The patch program is led by GE Global Research, but is actually a highly-collaborative, multi-disciplinary, endeavor with partners from the Air Force Research Laboratory, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, American Semiconductor Inc., University of Arizona, UES, and Dublin City University. The project is funded by the industry and academic partners and the AFRL.
Devices which might leverage this technology and manufacturing capability include the next-generation of human performance monitors currently being developed by organizations as diverse as Apple, Google, and Nike. Systems encompass data acquisition, analysis, transmission, interpretation, and archiving in a secure manner.