What is a Smart Shirt?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A smart shirt is a shirt with a computer interface that can log and transmit data about the wearer. Such garments have a number of potential applications and are of particular interest to athletes, the military, and first responders. Numerous universities and scientific research facilities have cooperated to explore smart shirt technology and develop improvements with the goal of creating garments for mass production.

Smart shirts can remotely monitor soldiers on the battlefield.
Smart shirts can remotely monitor soldiers on the battlefield.

The shirt can include sensors and connections to monitors worn on the body to track things like temperature, respiration, heart rate, activity levels, and body mechanics. Some can detect injuries and provide feedback and information. Others can log and display data about a person's location and take environmental samples to check for toxins, biohazards, and other potential threats to health and safety.

On the battlefield, a smart shirt can allow for remote monitoring of soldiers. If a soldier develops a health problem or injury, the shirt can provide information for field medics to help them find the person and act quickly. The ability to isolate a bullet wound in seconds can mean the difference between life and death, for example, as can chances to intervene before soldiers collapse from dehydration and other potential risks of field operations.

For first responders like firefighters, a smart shirt is a valuable safety tool. It can alert the wearer to hazardous conditions, allowing people to avoid environments where there is a high risk of injury, like a burning structure with toxic materials inside. The shirt can also monitor heart rate and respiration to allow supervisors to pull an emergency responder out if her body starts showing signs of stress. Often, adrenaline and focus cause people to be unaware of injuries, and having measures in place to identify and treat injured people can reduce casualties and make the working environment safer for everyone.

Athletes can also benefit from this technology. It can help people time workouts and customize them to physical needs, and can also provide feedback about poor posture, bad form, and other mechanical issues. This may reduce the risk of injuries and help people develop appropriate coping techniques to avoid issues like repetitive stress and chronic pain caused by using their bodies improperly.

The smart shirt requires development of advanced computing tools, including miniature circuits and circuitry that can be washed and made out of a variety of materials, including fabrics. Some interfaces are quite complex and may be very expensive, especially when peripheral integration is added, as a shirt that provides data about people is only useful as long as there is a way to access it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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