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Wearable early warning system for back problems

Smart T-shirt picks up on potentially dangerous movements of the spine, alerting users so they can change their movement habits.

Industrial Technologies

Manual labourers perform tasks which can eventually cause injuries. Rather than dealing with the health and financial costs after an injury has happened, a method for avoiding the problems in the first place would be better for all parties. The Manuback project, led by Dynaback, a Bulgarian company that specialises in wearable technology, has been creating a smart garment that should help. The clothing has inertial sensors embedded in the fabric which connect to a network in the cloud. By monitoring the worker’s positions, it can alert both wearer and manager about potentially dangerous movement patterns. “Dynaback aims to identify and reduce bad movements of the spine, give an early warning of back issues and encourage healthy movement habits. It is specially tailored to meet the needs of the work and safety market,” explains Gergana Valcheva, project manager at Dynaback. The product has already been trialled with a major producer, Nestlé Bulgaria. “For the Dynaback team, the chance to run a trial with an international company like Nestlé was crucial. That allowed us to start building our database of movements and getting results directly from the field,” says Valcheva.

Smart garment

Dynaback is a T-shirt embedded with an array of inertial sensors running up the line of the spine and down the arms. All the sensors are linked to an electronic chip and battery. The elastic material allows for greater mobility of movement, critical in the workplace. The device charges overnight and data is transferred up to the Dynaback server. The data is analysed and checked against an existing database, built on ergonomic rules. “The sensors notify the user through a soft vibration when they are doing a movement that is bad for their spine and their trunk, according to the ergonomic standards,” adds Valcheva. Such a movement could be overtwisting, overbending or hunching over.

Data analysis

The data collected by the sensors is stored on servers to be processed over the long term. This gives the wearer an overall analysis of their movements and posture. “The analyses of the data will also help environment, health and safety (EHS) managers, medical teams and operational directors keep track of employees’ health and safety and improve the work processes,” she notes.

Prototype in production

Dynaback is currently working on the final prototype. Since the trials, the company has already started working with two major international companies. The EU grant money helped Dynaback to achieve technical feasibility with its product and further develop the existing prototype. “Through the experience with Nestlé Bulgaria, we met with the right ergonomic specialist to help us analyse the results from the tests and take our product to the next level,” Valcheva says. The team are now aiming to finish the product and close a first deal with one of their potential customers. After that, the goal will be to manufacture the product and place it on the market. Sabri Mahdaoui, founder of Dynaback, concludes: “We see the potential of our products in many areas beyond the work and safety market. We are eager to support people in adopting healthier movement habits. “As an athlete and a dancer, I see problems with how people stand and how people walk, and how that reduces their quality of life, on a daily basis. And I am convinced that Dynaback can help.”

Keywords

Manuback, labour, back, pain, smart, shirt, cloud, sensors

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