A t-shirt designed by Canadian researchers is equipped with monitoring technology that can effectively track the wearer’s respiratory rate in real time, NewsMedical reports. Researchers believe the product could pave the way for a wave of “smart” clothing to monitor diseases like asthma, COPD, or sleep apnea.

The smart T shirt works without any wires, electrodes, or sensors attached to the user’s body, explains Younes Messaddeq, a professor at Universit√© Laval’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and its Center for Optics, Photonics, and Lasers. “The T shirt is really comfortable and doesn’t inhibit the subject’s natural movements. Our tests show that the data captured by the shirt is reliable, whether the user is lying down, sitting, standing, or moving around.”

The key to the smart T shirt is an antenna sewn in at chest level that’s made of a hollow optical fiber coated with a thin layer of silver on its inner surface. The fiber’s exterior surface is covered in a polymer that protects it against the environment. “The antenna does double duty, sensing and transmitting the signals created by respiratory movements,” adds Professor Messaddeq, who also holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Photonic Innovations. “The data can be sent to the user’s smartphone or a nearby computer.”

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