Wearable technology, along with 3D printing, mobile money, and smart cities are just a few of the tech trends for 2014 and the coming years.
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A new Canadian company, OMsignal has created a bio sensor shirt they hope will change how people get fit, stay healthy and help usher in the era connected devices in our lives.
OMSignal’s Co-founder and CEO, Stephane Marceau says that in 1o years, you won’t even ask and expect the bra or underwear you buy to be bio-sensing and will help you live a fitter, healthier and happier life.
Over time, sensors will be embedded into the fibres themselves, and this means you will have at any moment millions of people bio-streaming their physiological data into the cloud as they go about their every day lives. This live pool biological signal in real life never existed in recorded history. I hope that connected clothing will be like electricity in 10 years – Stephane Marceau, Co-Founder and CEO, OMsignal.
And Marceau’s new shirt does a lot of things. First, it looks good. Second, it’s a compression garment — which means it can activate blood circulation, enhances performance and helps muscles recover faster. Second, it adapts to your body shape and moves like you move and it has the classic sports gear features of odor control and wicks away moisture. And, you can wash it in your washing machine. Neat right?
The embedded sensors in the shirt, which you can’t even see, monitor your heart rate, breathing and activity while the OMsignal app shows your bio-data in real-time on your mobile phone.
Marceau says the sensors in the OMsignal shirt capture the ABC’s of health and wellness — activity, breathing and cardiac.
“The shirt or bra itself is the sensor: we capture signals from the heart through conductive yarn, inserted in the shirt at the right place to get good signal,” adds Marceau.
The shirt is also really busy. All of your personalized bio data is being captured even when you’re away from your phone — with a battery life of up to 3-5 days it connects to your phone via Bluetooth.
The team at OMsignal is as unique as the shirt. Comprised of doctors, surgeons, textile designers, fashion designers, software and UX engineers and bio-engagement scientists. Yes, you heard that right.
To make the OMsignal shirt, a bio-engagement scientist like Pascal Fortier, who also has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and a biology background, needs to harness the biological signal of the person wearing the shirt. These are signals emitted by the human body are subject to infinite artifacts in real life.
“Our scientists develop tools to measure and optimize that signal,” says Marceau. “They work with the textile/fashion team to ensure the construction of our garments delivers a good biological signal.”
With the kick off of the Human Brain Project and other academic initiatives trying to understand the brain and the data it can process, Neuroscience has become the topic du jour.
Fortier’s job is to understand what the body has to say about its state and how to listen to it. He works closely with the textile team to improve signal recording from the body and filter the meaningful data from the noise of life.
“Neuroscience is indeed a hot topic today, but we’re about to get practical knowledge about what the brain has to say directly and we’ll have the technology to find meaning out of it. But the way we’ll listen to it could easily be wearable,” adds Fortier. “OMsignal is the closest you will find and this is what attracts me in my work as a bio-engagement scientist here.”
Dr. Jesse Slade Schantz, OMsignal’s Chief Medical Officer, is also a practicing surgeon. So why is a surgeon involved in wearables?
“I think that MRIs and other imaging modalities are great for looking at anatomy. Questionnaires allow the crude ability to tell if a treatment has made a difference in a patient’s disease, but ask general questions,” said Schantz. “A clinic visit has always struck me as inefficient in getting to the heart of a patient’s problem. What we’re missing in medicine is an objective, accurate way for patients to tell us their illness story. I think wearables are part of that missing link.”
Schantz was a tester first. He measured his stress in the operating room at San Francisco General Hospital while he was treating trauma patients. And now today, as part of the team, he is trying to think about the ways in which their signal can help users meet wellness targets.
“I see that the shirt will start out as a consumer product until the company is sustainable. That’s when we can start on a more medical focus,” adds Schantz.
Marceau says it’s widely accepted that wearable will be the next mobile. And he has a viewpoint that has not been articulated as profoundly before.
According to Marceau, he says they bet that clothing will be the most mainstream wearable medium for three reasons: 1) It’s the only wearable form factor you have been wearing all of your life, 2) Clothing offers “body real estate”. Through clothing (bras, underwear, socks, etc) you can access a biological function wherever it happens, 3) Clothing can leverage the dynamics of fashion to accelerate its adoption and distribution.
“Wearable is at least in part about fashion…you won’t wear a wearable if it does not make you feel good — before the technology, the electronics and the data,” adds Marceau. “On that note, you will see the lines between fashion brands (Nike, UnderArmour), Digital Platforms (Google, Facebook, Amazon) and Consumer electronics (Apple, Samsung) blur around wearables.”
Currently, the company is testing the shirt with small group of interesting people they expect will become their customers. Weekend warriors, people with chronic conditions (asthma, sleep apnea, etc) and the newest target audience for connected devices; quantified selfers who Marceau believes are people passionate about self-knowledge, understanding how they tick (physiologically and emotionally) in different contexts and envrironments.
The company has raised $1.2 million dollars from Real Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Mistral Ventures and David Cohen.
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