Wearable tech is the trend of the future. New smart fitness gadgets are being released with integrated tracking software that is able to monitor heart rate, calories burned, distance traveled, and dozens more elements of fitness and exercise.
Now, a brand new technology is being created that can track sweat in order to help athletes avoid dehydration. A team of researchers at Northwestern University have designed a sweat-sensing skin patch that can track exercise and fitness data, but has the unique ability of providing hydration data.
A study involving 21 volunteers tested the soft, stretchable device. The study included nine healthy individuals who were tested during indoor cycling training, while 12 participants used the device for a long-distance outdoor cycling race. The patch is designed to track a wide range of biomarkers in sweat: electrolytes (sodium and potassium), pH balance, sweat volume, small molecules, proteins, and concentrations of lactate, glucose, and chloride.
The patch uses colorimetric readouts that can be captured by a smartphone, and the image processed using proprietary software accessed wirelessly. The software then delivers a readout of the image—ergo, a readout of the workout just completed. It details everything from your pH balance to lactate concentrations to glucose readings to current state of hydration.
The test was designed to analyze the effectiveness of the patch, and the researchers were very pleased with its success. It was also determined to stay securely in place regardless of sweat output or degree of exercise. Essentially, the wearable sweat analyzing tech proved a success, and a potential tool for the future of fitness tracking.
Source: John Rogers, Northwestern University
What’s interesting about this particular wearable tech item is the fact that it can analyze body fluid accurately. The colorimetric readings can be input into the image processing software to give accurate readouts on the physical state. The technology could be used to analyze other bodily fluids, including saliva, tears, or urine. There are potential uses to detect the use of illicit drugs without the need for complex urinalysis or blood testing.
Suffice it to say, this new sweat skin patch is something we can all look forward to. After all, wouldn’t it be awesome to know when we need to drink more water, eat more alkaline foods, or raise our blood sugar levels—all from a picture of the sweat patch taken with our smartphones!
1. “A soft, wearable microfluidic device for the capture, storage, and colorimetric sensing of sweat“, Ahyeon Koh et al., Science Translational Medicine, published 23 November 2016.