Is Smart Underwear in Our Near Future?


In the past few years we’ve been seeing a lot of new wearable technology. In fact, much of our closets could now be replaced with wearable tech. From smart jackets, to socks, to helmets and shoes, we’ve pretty much got everything covered. But now, Engineers at the University of California are considering smart underwear. Why and how? Keep reading to find out.


What are Printed Sensors

Researchers at the University of California and the San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering have been working with printed sensors. These sensors are micro sensors that can be printed onto fabrics and are essentially simple electrodes that can be washed, put in the dryer, and worn around on a variety of clothing. Tests on the sensors revealed that they stay put even during vigorous wear, especially when printed on the inside of garments. The sensors pick up a range of data and have been proven to detect hydrogen peroxide, NADH, and several other compounds that medical sensors have to sense, essentially making these micro-sensors perfect for wearable medical monitoring systems.

Why Underwear?

While most of us don’t think of our underwear as something that we want to monitor us, researchers suggest that it’s the perfect way to integrate monitors into everyday clothing. Underwear is an ideal choice because it is worn every day by the majority of people, and the elastic bands keep it close to the skin where sensors need to be. Printing micro sensors onto the back of the bank creates the perfect alternative to wearing a strap on sensor. Best of all, anyone who usually wears underwear wouldn’t even notice wearing the sensors.

What Can It Do?

While currently the smart underwear is still in prototype phases, it can already do a lot that might actually save lives. The current sensors can detect when the wearer is feeling unwell, when their body temperature changes, when their heart rate increases, when they need medication, and even when someone goes into shock. The sensors pick up bio markers like enzymes including glucose, lactate, and more.
The developers suggest that while the current version of their smart underwear can only be used for monitoring, they are currently working on newer versions that can actually diagnose and administer life saving medicine and drugs to someone. For example, if a diabetic goes into shock while wearing the underwear it might be used to alert an emergency contact.
In other examples, it could be used in hospitals to detect issues and automatically issue medication. Bio sensors can detect a variety of issues and can detect stress caused by pain, which would make administering the right medication easy if the doctors already knew what the problem was. Essentially, the smart underwear could be used in hospitals for automatically administering needed drugs when the person needed them.
While none of this is currently possible, the UC San Diego NanoEngineers, Clarkson University, the University of California, and the San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering are all working on making it a reality. With the basic technology already in place, their job is to perfect the electrodes to detect biomarkers and alert the wearers of problems.