Students Aim for New Functionality for Smart Fabric Band

Drexel Engineering student researchers developed a new framework to use technology developed by Drexel’s Wireless Systems Lab and Center for Functional Fabrics. The smart knitted fabric incorporates biomedical and sensor actuation applications to track a wearer’s respiratory rate, activity and temperature.

As the shape of the bands (left) changes, the included RFID tags communicate with an interrogator (right), which can translate the change to heart rate, breathing, contractions and more.

The students — computer engineering majors Celine Khoo and Daniel Rodriguez and computer science major Kristopher Lopez — have earned recognition for their innovation. They were awarded the IEEE Philadelphia Section Merrill Buckley Jr. Student Project Award for their paper on the wearable, and the project was recognized by the IEEE Communication Society as an honorable mention in its ComSoc Student Competition, placing it among the top 14 projects worldwide and the top placing project from the United States.

In addition to monitoring vital signs, the band would use Bluetooth Low Energy to track potential exposures, in the same way that contact tracing apps on smartphones work. The group believes that the combination of features would be especially helpful in protecting elderly populations.

“We believe that this device would be really beneficial for people living in assisted living facilities and other care facilities, given their vulnerability,” Rodriguez says. “The-two-pronged approach that we propose would help reduce risk overall and alert for signs of early detection.”