Sensoria’s smart workout clothes could be literal life-savers
Plenty of wearables track your heart rate, but not many use that data to get you help in an emergency.
By Caitlin McGarry
Sensoria makes a line of workout gear, including men’s T-shirts and women’s sports bras, that are fitness trackers on their own. The fabrics include electrodes and heart rate monitors, which communicate with Sensoria’s smartphone app via Bluetooth. I’ve tested the sports bra and Sensoria’s Bluetooth socks in the past, and while smart clothes sound cool in theory, they’re expensive and only marginally useful in practice. But Sensoria is refreshing its heart rate-monitoring apparel with a short-sleeved men’s tee and a medium-support sports bra, both now available to preorder on Kickstarter, and adding a feature that could actually save a life.
A new version of Sensoria’s app, which will launch when the first wave of shirts and sports bras ship around the holidays this year, is for the first time using your heart rate to determine if you have cardiac irregularities. How it works: The Sensoria app monitors the heart rate data collected by your smart workout apparel in real time. An algorithm analyzes the incoming data and can determine if you have any cardiac irregularities. The app also uses the accelerometer on your iPhone to tell if you’re still moving. If both a cardiac irregularity and a pause in movement are detected, the app will activate Heart Sentinel and send you an alert: Confirm you’re still conscious within 10 seconds or Sensoria will share your GPS coordinates with your emergency contacts.
Basically, the app deduces that you’ve gone into cardiac arrest and kicks in to get you help as fast as possible.
“Ideally, someone will respond in 10 minutes,” Sensoria cofounder and CEO Davide Vigano told me in an interview. “If that happens in a short period of time, the survival rate is very high. After 10 minutes…the survival rate goes down very low.”
When would a feature like this be useful? Many fitness buffs, including runners and cyclists, prefer to go off the beaten path to get their workouts done on rougher or more remote terrain. But if no one is around and you didn’t realize you had a heart condition, that situation could quickly become life-threatening. That’s where Heart Sentinel comes in.
When I heard of Heart Sentinel, I immediately thought of the SOS feature Apple is putting in watchOS 3, though SOS requires more effort on your part. You have to press and hold the Apple Watch’s side button to trigger the feature, which will then place an emergency call and share your location with your emergency contacts. But the two are similar in that both take the data your device is already collecting and makes it actionable in the most important way possible—when your life is at stake.
“Our core target, our core customers, are health-conscious runners, maybe people who have injured themselves before so they value the algorithms we’ve created,” Vigano told me. “Heart Sentinel is in line with that experience. We help and provide information instead of raw data. People are tired of data for the sake of data.”
Sensoria partnered with Italian cardiologists Nicola Gaibazzi and Claudio Reverberi of the University of Parma Hospital to create the algorithm that became Heart Sentinel. Vigano said the company has run hospital simulator tests to ensure the feature’s accuracy, but is still beta-testing right now with a small group of athletes who have had open heart surgery in the past.
The upgraded Sensoria app includes a slew of new features, like personal training plans led by the app’s built-in voice coach, which I found annoying in my earlier tests but could be more useful in the second-gen version. The app will also include a Heart Rate Recovery test to figure out your fitness level and a Heart Rate Variability test to tell if you have enough energy to power through the day’s training schedule. I’ll go hands-on with Sensoria version two when it launches to see if all those new features make the smart workout gear worth buying.
Preorders start at $79 and include a tee or sports bra and a heart rate monitor. Both products will retail for $149 at launch.
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