Knowledge Transfer Partnership Enhancing Exercise With Wearable Technology Smartlife Ltd are a Manchester based company that specialise in wearable technology. Specifically, they’ve developed innovative textile sensors, electronics and firmware with the capability of measuring the body’s bioelectrical signals. By integrating this technology into compression garments, Smartlife offer a comfortable and non-invasive method of measuring real time physiological data for both sports and health applications. Smartlife have paired with the University of Salford to work on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a scheme run through Innovate UK that aims to help domestic businesses innovate and grow. KTPs enable these businesses to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a strategic innovation project that’s managed by an associate, a researcher recruited to act as the project manager and oversee the delivery of the projects key aims. The overall aim of this KTP is to embed knowledge of body worn textile sensor data into Smartlife's products. To achieve this, there are 3 key project objectives.
1. Understanding Energy Expenditure
3. Measuring Muscle Activity
2. Providing Running Gait Analysis
Monitoring physical activity is important as it provides insight on people’s activity patterns and how they can affect health. By monitoring a person’s energy expenditure, we get a measure of the quantity, intensity and frequency of their activity. Also, knowing our own energy expenditure is useful for weight management where the goal is adherence to a specific energy balance target. Typically, commercial devices predict energy expenditure though movement data (acceleration) or heart rate data. Although these methods provide accurate estimations in laboratory conditions, they can produce large errors when used in free living. The first aim of the KTP is to understand the physiology behind energy expenditure and use this along with Smartlife’s innovative garment technology to make more accurate free living predictions of energy expenditure.
Running is one of the most popular practiced sports worldwide, with most people either running to lose weight or improve their fitness. However, running related injuries are very common and can lead to reduced exercise and decreased running performance. Specific features of people’s running gait have been found to have an impact on certain running related injuries while others have been found to affect running performance.
Electromyography (EMG) is the process of recording the electrical activity in your muscles. Muscle contractions are generated by the brain sending a signal along a nerve to an individual motor unit. To record these signals, electrodes are adhered to the skin over the muscle and these record the electrical activity directly below the placement site. It’s common in cyclic activities like running and cycling that the order in which muscles ‘switch on’ can affect your movement efficiency and dysfunctional firing patterns have been linked with injury. Being able to detect the timing of muscle firing could be a useful tool for athletes looking to improve performance and reduce injury. Similarly, people recovering from injuries where a group of muscle have remained inactive for a long period of time could use EMG as a feedback tool to encourage muscle activation during rehabilitation. Traditional EMG systems are extremely expensive and because of this are typically only used for research. The third aim of the KTP project is to understand the methods for collecting high fidelity EMG signals and determine how the Smartlife system can be used to collect EMG signals to be used within a feedback tool for physios and athletes.
To measure someone’s running gait they need to complete a 3-D gait analysis. However, this is carried out using expensive equipment and specialist knowledge. Recently, running products have started to provide measures of running gait but offer little insight on what these values mean and how to alter your running gait. The second aim of the KTP project is to use the movement data (acceleration) captured by Smartlife’s technology to provide real time gait analysis during running and provide insight on how this information can be used to reduce the chance of injury and improve running performance.