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Smart Jammies

Each year, sudden infant death syndrome, or crib death, claims the lives of around 2,225 U.S. children from birth to 12 months. But German researchers have developed a stretchable, printed circuit board that could be fitted into a one-piece sleeper and would signal an alarm if a baby stops breathing.

Investigators at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin have figured out how to make the flexible, wearable circuit board from polyurethane, a plastic often used as a sealant. They fitted it with sensors that monitor breathing in the chest and stomach areas, and ironed it onto baby-size PJs.

The flexible circuit could also be used in pressure bandages for burn wounds; the sensors would help nurses to fit them onto patients with more precision.

Meanwhile, a sister organization, the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communications Systems, has come up with a hardware/software device that would enable patients undergoing physical rehabilitation to do their physiotherapy exercises at home. The “physio box” plugs into a TV and runs videos of training programs developed especially for the patient, based on a 3-D biomechanical computer model of him or her. A video camera records each session and sends the results to a physiotherapist who can monitor a patient’s progress and adapt the exercises, as needed. A set of sensors can be placed in a chest strap, cane, or watch to measure vital signs and send the data to a smartphone.

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