Smart Shirts are More Than Dapper, Deliver Live Heart Rate and EKG

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel

When he unbuttoned his shirt on stage at this week’s Code Conference in Ranco Palos Verdes, Calif,  Intel CEO Brian Krzanich didn’t reveal a giant red S on his undershirt.

Instead it was a blue, Intel Edison technology powered smart biking jersey capable of capturing live heart rate and EKG data.

This smart shirt could bring new meaning to phrase, “looking good, feeling good” with it’s ability to give its owner the right data to back it up.

The smart shirt could tell whether or not Krzanich’s heart was racing at that moment, and the same might be said for host Walt Mossberg when called out Krzanich for saying “I’m actually wearing a wearable shirt.”

The smart shirt embodies new possibilities. It’s an example of how powerful, ever shrinking computer technology can be used to make things smart, including stylish items we wear near and dear to our hearts.

Krzanich said that the shirt is battery powered, but is safe to wear in the rain. Still, he warned, you might not want to try it out in the shower.

“It’s basically the ultimate wearable,” said Recode reporter Lauren Goode as interviewed Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group.

Bell described how the smart shirt came together and how it’s aimed at inspiring others to create their wearable idea to life…in many cases faster and better using Intel technology

“Wearable tech is so personal that one size won’t fit all,” said Bell. “You’re going to see a number of different applications. We’re trying to produce best in class solutions for whatever people build, whether it’s for the wrist or a shirt like this.”

The Intel smart shirt was developed by AiQ, which Bell said has a technology for building sensors into conductive fibers. The shirt plugs into small box the size of a candy bar. Nestled inside is Intel Edison technology.

When it’s time to wash the shirt, Bell showed that the tiny computing box can easily be unplugged.

“The box with Intel Edison inside has both Bluetooth and WiFi, so it can send data to a tablet or a phone (wirelessly),” said Bell. “We could’ve built it with our 3G cellular chip so it could send data to the cloud as you bike.”

That little box does the math, said Bell. It crunches the heart rate data and sends it to a tablet, smartphone or laptop where it can be visually analyzed by it owner.

He explained that Intel hardware and software can help others go off and build stuff like smart shirts for kids that allow parents to monitor their health and wearabouts or something wearable for a family member who needs 24-hour care.

“We’re putting together the technologies needed to build products that tell everything about you.”

While the smart shirt is not yet on the market, Bell said it could make for an interesting item for a cyclist who would rather not wear a strap around their chest to monitor their heart rate.

Wearable World News reports that Intel is one of many companies weaving technology into the clothes we wear, including OMsignal and Hexoskin. The industry news site also pointed out The Wearable Technology Lab at the University of Minnesota, which “has been conducting experiments using the same technique for the last few years, even working with the Johnson Space Center in Houston to better equip astronauts heading into the final frontier.”

Things could be looking up if you into dressing smarter.

Photos by Asa Mathat – Re/code.

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