Researchers develop 'multimodal' wearable for real-time health and fitness monitoring

University of California San Diego researchers have developed what they call the first multimodal wearable, the Chem-Phys sensor patch, that monitors electrophysiology and body chemical sensing simultaneously.

The researchers say the tool "represents an important first step in the research and development of multimodal wearable sensors that fuse chemical, electrophysiological and physical sensors for more comprehensive monitoring of human physiology," in their article, published in Nature Communications.

More than 66 million wearables will ship globally each year by 2021, according to recent Tractica research. And, according to PwC, fitness devices are the wearable of choice for consumers, with healthcare concerns, especially among women, a top reason for adoption.

The Chem-Phys patch, which is worn on the chest, transmits biochemical and electric signals via a smartphone, smartwatch or a laptop, according to an announcement. It features a flexible suite of sensors and a small electronic board.

Researchers tested the patch on three males who participated in 15 to 30 minutes of intense activity on a stationary bike. Two of the three also wore a commercial wristband heart-rate monitor. The data revealed the patch's accuracy to be on par with current commercial devices.

"One of the overarching goals of our research is to build a wearable tricorder-like device that can measure simultaneously a whole suite of chemical, physical and electrophysiological signals continuously throughout the day," said Patrick Mercier, electrical engineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, who led the project. "This research represents an important first step to show this may be possible."

The research team hopes to advance patch development, with goals of improving connectivity and adding more sensors to monitor additional chemical markets, such as potassium.

For more information:
- read the announcement
- read the Nature Communications article