Singaporean scientists develop battery-free “smart clothing” powered by smartphones

When it comes to tracking the performance of athletes, a single wearable sensor does not always provide a lot of information, but multiple hard-wired sensors limit movement. This is the role of a new sensor suit-it is driven by a smartphone.The battery-free garment developed by the National University of Singapore team contains multiple custom-made sensors connected by conductive threads sewn into the fabric.


When a smartphone is placed on or near a conductive coil on the line, its NFC (near field communication) signal temporarily activates the sensors, allowing them to transmit the stored readings back to the phone. Then, these data will be displayed on the screen of the device.

In the current prototype form, the device can support up to 6 sensors per smartphone. These sensors provide data on factors such as running gait, body temperature and spine posture. The latter is particularly important because the university stated that “spine posture is an integral part of cultivating a solid movement posture, and it is often overlooked because it is difficult to collect real-time data.”

Once further developed, the technology can also be used to evaluate medical clothing for spinal diseases, or clothing for continuous monitoring of patient vital signs. And if used in sportswear, it can not only evaluate performance, but also warn when the wearer is at risk of overheating.

“Our smart clothes can be used with most modern smart phones. It is both a source of power and a display for viewing sensor data.” Chief Scientist Associate Professor He Junjie said. “Creating a smart suit that can be powered by the built-in smartphone wireless technology is a major breakthrough.”