Objective. Physical exercise may be used to improve mental cognition, physical strength and overall dexterity within the older population. This can enhance health and wellbeing. Walking is cited as the best exercise for persons over 60. We outline the development of a smart garment that allows the wearer to monitor their wellbeing whilst harnessing technology to provide additional safety measures and functionality.
Main Content. In order to ascertain the user needs, questionnaires were designed and distributed to a target cohort of 50 hikers (aged 60 or over). These questionnaires elicited user opinions and experiences with walking activities, clothing attire and technology; in addition to examining what users sought from a smart garment. A number of workshops were organized to offer users hands-on experience with appropriate fabrics, textiles and technology. From the feedback received a technology mapping exercise was performed in which viable technologies were mapped onto the requirements elicited.
Results. From this user interaction phase, themes were established: safety enhancement, additional functionality, support for monitoring health indicators and increased social interaction. The technology mapping exercise facilitated the development of an initial prototype that used a Smartphone and inbuilt sensors (accelerometer, GPS) to collect and record: location and walking attributes (such as speed, distance and altitude) all of which were fed back on an interactive map. A step count was implemented using the onboard accelerometer, to provide an indication of overall activity level. Further development will harness expertise in clothing manufacturing to create a layering system with the capability of integrating sensors to create a Body Area Network, to monitor and record requested information such as heart rate and (peripheral) body temperature. All this information must be assimilated in a useful and meaningful way. Hence the user interface and interaction methods will be designed appropriate to the age and experience of the target cohort, with elements of personalisation.
Conclusion. Feedback from users on the development of a smart garment has influenced the initial prototype. Further technical development will be based on user evaluation of the wearable system. Feedback from these evaluations will be used to add, amend or remove functionality.