Footfalls and Heartbeats: The textile is the ...
Footfalls and Heartbeats

The textile is the sensor

(Source: Footfalls and Heartbeats)
(Source: Footfalls and Heartbeats)

By controlling the nano-scale interactions between electrically conductive yarns, Footfalls can create an intricate sensor network knitted directly into the textile. This innovative and patented knitting technique is called “The Textile is the Sensor”. Tensile and compressive forces and external stimuli can be measured, removing the need for solid state sensors or embedded electronics. The use of a textile-based structure offers unlimited flexibility and conformity, enabling sensors to be embedded in a host of textile designs and shapes. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the field of smart textiles, offering the latest innovation in a variety of industries such as sports/fitness and healthcare.

4 key platforms

Splitting into 4 key platforms, this technology revolves around the unique interaction between the user and textile. The Light platform harnesses optical fiber technology knitted into a piece of fabric, thus allowing the accurate measurement of absolute pressure, humidity and other metrics. The potential for this technology is wide reaching, particularly in healthcare. The sensors can transform the treatment of venous leg ulcers, a growing health problem in the UK, costing the NHS (National Health Service) an estimated £5 billion a year. Furthermore, Footfalls is also in the early stages of development of an optical fiber integrated Smart Mask, capable of measuring respiratory rate and waveform. The Smart Mask can transform monitoring and treatment for those with breathing difficulties and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) related illnesses, as well as become a crucial device in the fight against Long Covid and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Push platform focuses on tracking multiple pressure points across a surface, be it a bed, cushion or sheet. This technology has already seen a key application through the creation of a smart shoe, knitted on a state-of-the-art circular knitting machine; the only one of its kind in the UK. The smart shoe has the ability to monitor and offer feedback on the wearer’s daily activity by accurately tracking gait through pressure sensors knitted onto the sole. The flexible and comfortable nature of these textile sensors in addition to the accuracy and usability of pressure sensing opens up a host of potential opportunities and markets for the Push platform, from aiding sport rehabilitation and injuries, to healthcare and gait management.

(Source: Footfalls and Heartbeats)

The Stretch platform is focused on strain and stretch detection, with sensors knitted into a smart sleeve that sits directly over the knee or elbow respectively. The sleeve accurately measures joint movement through tracking flexion and extension in real time. As with all these technologies, the sleeve is lightweight, durable and comfortable and can easily replace compression sleeves already worn by athletes. When combined with an interactive display and real time data capture, the smart sleeve can change the face of sports-related rehabilitation, offering detailed and insightful tracking and analysis of player movement, both during training and recovering from injury. Furthermore, the slim profile of the sleeve when worn on the body makes it a prime device for VR and motion capture.

The platform Touch, uses bio-electrical textile sensors to measure human vitals such as heart rate, heart rate variability and muscle activity. The bio-electrical sensors are knitted directly into garments, offering advanced tracking of human vitals in clothing that looks and feels normal, without solid state sensors or a digital footprint. The Touch platform can have a big impact in markets such as physiotherapy, fitness/sports, and health and safety. 

(Source: Footfalls and Heartbeats)

Footfalls and Heartbeats (UK) Ltd., Nottingham/UK, are a smart textile company specializing in textile-based sensors. Originally founded in New Zealand by Simon McMaster, Footfalls and Heartbeats moved to the UK in 2015. Since late 2020, Footfalls have been located in a large open plan office space, complete with dedicated knitting and testing lab. The lab is home to 2 state-of-the-art knitting machines from Stoll and Santoni.


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