Wearable technology keeps pace in the space race: The International Space Station (ISS) is monitoring the earth and reporting back on climate change, and how crystals and crops can grow in space.

Astronauts and scientists on-board the ISS need to be fit and alert, and sleep is important. Sleep patterns, however, can be disrupted due to time zone changes – there can be 16 sunrises in one day – and work shift patterns.

Conditions on-board are designed to optimise sleep. The environment is monitored so that sleeping areas are quiet to minimise disruption. As well as noise, this includes monitoring temperature, lighting, air flow, carbon dioxide and the peculiarly space station problem of restraints that prevent the sleeping crew floating around while asleep.

Exercise routines, minimising light from digital devices in the evenings and diet also contribute to prevent circadian misalignment, where the body’s physiolgical and behavioural rhythms that are triggered by hormones, body temperature, mood and sleep are thrown out of sync.

Apart from drowsiness, lack of concentration and even bad temperedness due to lack of sleep, NASA is using the e-TACT device from BodyCap as one of the tools in its arsenal to check the sleep quality of the crew and other conditions.

French astronaut, Thomas Pesquet, is taking part in the EveryWear project, during his six month mission as part of the European Space Agency (ESA) on the ISS. EveryWear, developed by France’s space agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales), microgravity science laboratory CADMOS, and space medicine specialists MEDES (Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology) will gather data for sciene experiments, biomedical support and technology demonstrations. Using an application on a tablet, Pesquet will record and transmit data such as diet, exercise and sleep assement.

Pequet will wear the e-TACT sensor, for skin temperature and activity recording is focused on studying sleep patterns in space, and a blood pulse wave sensor, to record how arteries react to weightlessness, during his six-month Proxima mission.

The e-TACT will be commercially available in Europe and the US from February 2017, says BodyCap. It combines activity tracking, skin temperature monitoring and body position detection, and sends data wirelessly in real-time or it can be stored for subsequent analysis. It can be worn on any part of the body for a long  period of times, says the company, and can be used here on earth too, for general healthcare applications, such as to monitor chronic diseases and sleep disorders, and monitoring overweight people in physical activity-based programmes.
 
The blood pulse wave piezoelectric flexible sensor is based on BodyCap’s patented Upper Skin technology. It can detect the blood pulse wave and its changes while exposed to long-term microgravity. It has been developed in partnership with the Paris-based engineering school ESIEE.

Wearable technology keeps pace in the space race: http://www.bodycap-medical.com

NASA International Space Station image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

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