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It sounds like science fiction: imagine being able to slip on a pair of otherwise average looking underwear, knowing that conductive fibres in the garment's knit will capture a continuous picture of your heart rate, breathing patterns, body temperature and other important biometrics.
If you were to experience a sudden decrease in activity or a medical episode like an arrhythmia, caregivers in a remote location would be able to intervene immediately, possibly saving your life or eliminating the need for long-term rehabilitative care.
As COVID-19 hit Canada in March, the then pervasive "stay home" message left many elderly Canadians and people living with disabilities in isolation, making the need for remote monitoring devices particularly acute. While limiting people's movement protects them from contracting the virus, the decrease in face-to-face visits from caregivers and loved ones means that crises ranging from minor strokes to depression can go unnoticed for substantial lengths of time.
Even though many organizations have experimented with remote monitoring devices for years, a new, and timely, partnership between the KITE Research Institute at UHN and Toronto-based textile technology company Myant will soon make remote care as easy as putting on that pair of underwear every morning.
KITE has long prioritized partnerships with private sector companies. Not only do for-profit startups like Myant have a built-in motivation to get products to market as soon as possible, but unlike some slower-moving academic institutions, the private sector tends to be more overtly solution oriented.
When KITE Director Dr. Milos Popovic learned that Myant CEO Tony Chahine was motivated to develop easy-to-use wearable biometric interfaces after seeing his own father's struggle with dementia, Dr. Popovic knew that Myant could benefit from KITE's expertise, and vice versa.
"For many years we've worked aggressively with various companies to create solutions that will improve the experiences of aging populations and people with disabilities in Canada," Dr. Popovic says. "If we make solutions that are available to the wider majority of people, we essentially enable people to benefit from our work and the money that society has invested in us through taxpayer dollars.
"This is the kind of work that really goes back to the community."