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Smart Belly Band

June 04, 2014

In an innovative marriage of fashion design, science and digital fabrication, Genevieve Dion, Director of the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab and Professor of Fashion Design, is progressing further with the development of a “smart garment” that will be able to monitor a pregnant woman’s baby in real time.

Dion is leading a team of researchers from Drexel’s Colleges of Medicine and Engineering in developing a maternity belly band that will track uterine contractions and real-time heart rates. The wearable technology will be especially useful in monitoring high-risk pregnancies in a non-invasive manner. The belly band, in time, may have applications for routine checkups, in addition to allowing doctors to monitor their patients from both inside and outside of a hospital.

Using computerized knitting software, electrically conductive thread, and a passive radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, Dion—who was recently named by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business—designed a prototype of the stylish and seamless belly band. The project was produced at the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab located in Drexel’s ExCITe Center, with support from the Coulter-Drexel Partnership for Innovation in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science & Health Systems.

The mission of the Haute Technology Lab is to advance the field of wearable technology with the development of modular, flexible production for high-performance textile applications. In other words – the fabrics of the future. This summer the belly band prototype will be put through its first clinical trials.

Genevieve Dion will offer a brief presentation, “3D Fabrication of Textile Devices: From Rapid Prototyping to Mass Production,” on her research in wearable technology and cutting-edge textiles as part of Drexel’s ScholarSip series on Monday, June 9th at 4:00 pm in MacAlister Hall, Skyview Room (33 & Chestnut Streets).

Researchers on the project include Owen Montgomery, M.D., head of obstetrics and gynecology at Drexel’s College of Medicine; and Kapil Dandekar, PhD, Adam Fontecchio, PhD, and Timothy Kurzweg, PhD, from the College of Engineering. Their research centers on signal processing algorithms that monitor changes in received signal characteristics from the RFID tag.