Researchers in the UK have begun work on a project to develop hi-tech clothing for elderly people, with electronic devices built in.

The three year research project is being funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme, a collaboration between five UK research councils, and will involve teams from more than six universities as well as the London College of Fashion.

The project aims to develop clothing with electronic devices to monitor vital signs such as heart rate or temperature. This could have benefits such as automatically adjusting a home thermostat or alerting clinicians, carers or family if heart rate drops.

Professor Bryan Scotney, director of Ulster’s Computer Science Research Institute, said: “This project is particularly exciting as we will be working with partners with complementary expertise. 

"This will enable our research in sensor technologies, data fusion and intelligent data analysis to have a real impact on people’s everyday lives.”

The team will also work with Ulster’s Sports and Exercise Research Institute (SESRI).

Dr Eric Wallace, director of the Institute, added: “Essentially, once the data on the movements of older people is recorded, it is passed to SESRI and we will make sense of it in a lifestyle capacity.

“This information can then in turn be used by those developing the garments, to understand better the most effective usage of the technology in the clothing.”

One of the key aspects to the project will be making the technology user-friendly to the older person. The researchers aim to develop clothing that will be both comfortable and user-friendly.

Project leader Jane McCann, director of smart clothes and wearable technology at Newport’s School of Art, Media and Design, said: “We are at the beginning of a new industrial revolution as textiles and electronics merge.

“This collaborative research project will bring together design and technology to investigate the application of smart textiles in clothing to enhance the well-being and quality of life of the active ageing population.”

Link: University of Ulster faculty of computing: design for ageing well