A research team at Georgia Institute of Technology in the US has created a soft wearable for wireless, long-term monitoring of health in adults, children and babies.

The monitor, which is made of stretchable electronics that are linked to gold electrodes through printed connectors, is said to be conformable with the skin.

It is designed to capture data on electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, respiratory rate and motion activity. The device is capable of transmitting this data to a smartphone or tablet that is as much as 15m away, noted the researchers.

The team claims that the new monitor is designed to avoid skin injury or allergic reactions associated with traditional adhesive sensors with conductive gels.

Georgia Institute of Technology biomedical engineering assistant professor Woon-Hong Yeo said: “This health monitor has a key advantage for young children who are always moving, since the soft conformal device can accommodate that activity with a gentle integration onto the skin.

“This is designed to meet the electronic health monitoring needs of people whose sensitive skin may be harmed by conventional monitors.”

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As the device can conform to the skin, it can avoid signal issues and capture accurate data even when the user is walking, running or climbing stairs. In addition, the health monitor could facilitate at-home use.

The wearable is waterproof and can be worn for several days. Its electronic components can be recycled, according to the researchers.

Yeo added: “The devices are completely dry and do not require a gel to pick up signals from the skin. There is nothing between the skin and the ultrathin sensor, so it is comfortable to wear.

“We use deep learning to monitor the signals while comparing them to data from a larger group of patients. If an abnormality is detected, it can be reported wirelessly through a smartphone or other connected device.”

While the researchers are currently working on paediatric applications of the device, they believe that it would allow monitoring in adults as well.

They created two models of the monitor – one with medical tape for short-term use in a care facility such as a hospital, and another with a soft elastomer medical film for wound care.

The team is planning to decrease the monitor’s size and add new features for the measurement of other parameters such as temperature, blood oxygen and blood pressure.