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STTR Phase I: Wearable Fabric Sensor for Hydration Monitoring
Phone: (234) 281-9164
Phone: (234) 281-9164
Contact: Chelsea Monty
Type: Nonprofit College or University
This SBIR Phase I project will provide prototype products to satisfy customer needs in prioritized wearable sensor market segments for the endurance sports market. One advantage of the proposed sensor is its similar feel to cloth fabric, a benefit in comfort and convenience to the user. This is in contrast to current hydration monitors made of thick plastic materials requiring the use of an additional wristband or adhesive patch. This value proposition was developed and tested based on the findings of 374 customer interviews during a spring 2017 NSF I-Corps workshop. That study determined the commercial and product potential of a fabric sensor to monitor hydration. In 2015 alone more than 17.1 million people finished endurance events. According to interview data, 50% of respondents are interested in a hydration solution due to past dehydration and cramping issues. Additionally, 40% of respondents indicated interest in a technology-based solution. This group equates a target market of $342 million for a hydration monitor priced at $100 per unit, a good estimation of the total available market based on I-Corps interviews. In general, the data collected from the developed sensor could lead to better understanding of health and disease processes, including the analysis of common diabetic neurological complications, the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis (CF), and sweat monitoring for advanced prosthetic limb applications, bedridden patients, or athlete performance tracking leading to better treatments and health outcomes for all patients. A monitor that analyzes the sodium concentration of a person's sweat would be able to notify them before they begin suffering from exercise-induced illnesses such as hypernatremia or hyponatermia. This early notification system would allow people to be on top of their hydration, and be able to replenish their electrolytes as needed, without overhydrating. The team has developed flexible, lightweight fabric materials that can selectively determine physiological information from sweat forming on the surface of the skin. The technology is the first lightweight fabric sensor to provide real-time information regarding hydration levels during exercise or training. These dehydration patterns are unique and vary based on diet, weather conditions, and human physiological cycles. The ability to monitor an individual's hydration parameters is unique to the proposed sensor and gives it a competitive advantage over sweat monitors that monitor water lost or water timers that remind the athlete to drink water every 20 minutes. Specifically, the proposed work will focus on the large-scale development of a hydration monitor, validation of the monitor during material testing and on the body in an exercise physiology laboratory, and leveraging partnerships with potential strategic partners. As athletes strive for peak performance, improper hydration can undermine their progress in both training and competitive settings. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *