Footfalls and Heartbeats sheds light on the process of making smart fabrics

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Footfalls and Heartbeats recently published an article in the MDPI Engineering Proceedings highlighting its technology as a viable alternative to the industry standard method of capturing data for movement patterns and biomechanics.

Footfalls & Heartbeats has developed a process for manufacturing smart fabrics. Nanoscale interactions that occur in tissue eliminate the need for wires or solid-state electronics; ‘the textile is the sensor’.

The paper, published by Footfalls, titled: “Assessing the Validity of a Kinematic Knee Sleeve in a Resistance-Trained Population” is the first written by Nathan Toon, a recent University of Derby graduate who joined the firm in September of last year. The study assessed the validity of a Kinematic Knee Sleeve (KiTT), designed and manufactured by Footfalls, against Vicon, an industry benchmark motion capture system.

Motion capture systems are capable of recording joint angles such as the relative angle of the knee in the sagittal plane, displacement of segments, and angular motion of joints and segments. Relative knee angle is typically measured when assessing squat depth to provide the user and trainers with range of motion or strength enhancement information that can be used to develop effective strength and conditioning strategies and rehabilitation plans.

However, when recording movements through such systems, real-time data is not available, compromising the value of the data during a particular session. Additionally, these systems are not as accessible and are associated with the need for specialized equipment and training.

Wearable sensors that can be worn away from specialized environments and provide real-time, instant data to users and trainers allow exercise or training methods to be instantly adjusted, based on session needs to promote performance and rehabilitation in a way that is not possible with fixed, specialized motion capture systems. Previous wearable sensors, such as smartwatches, focused on user convenience rather than data quality. As a result, precision is often lost, resulting in unreliable and invalid data.

Footfalls and Heartbeats Kinematic Knee Sleeve (KiTT) aims to bridge the gap between user comfort and valid, accurate and actionable data collection. KiTT is a custom-knit smart wearable knee brace, which is the first of its kind to knit the sensor directly into the fabric. Part of the KiTT is an electronic module, allowing data from the textile strain sensor to be transmitted to a wearable device. By comparing their KiTT technology to Vicon, it was found that the KiTT seems to serve as a practical alternative to Vicon without sacrificing data quality.

Nathan Toon, Footfalls and Heartbeats Postgraduate Researcher and lead author of the paper, said, “I am very pleased to have my first manuscript published with the MDPI Engineering Proceedings. Hopefully this will be the first of many, with the amazing oversight team here at Footfalls and Heartbeats. Our results show that Footfalls’ KiTT technology fills a real need in the field of sports science and rehabilitation and is a viable alternative to the industry leader.

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