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Brief Published: 3 Feb 2016

Sweat-Reading Wearables

Future wearables may include sensors to track different substances in sweat

Researchers from the University of California and Stanford School of Medicine in the US have created a flexible, wearable band that may improve the ability to monitor health by tracking levels of different substances found in sweat.

The band contains sensors placed on the wearer's skin, together with a tiny electronics system that wraps around their wrist. As well as skin temperature, the sensors can measure sodium, potassium, glucose and lactate. Once the data has been collected, it is sent to a smartphone app via Bluetooth.

Existing activity trackers and smartwatches are equipped to monitor heart and respiration rate and body heat, but they cannot track changes within bodily fluids in an accurate, non-invasive way. "Knowing about this ... could be helpful for learning how concentrations of different chemicals relate to your health," said Ali Javey, professor at the University of California.

The researchers are examining around 20 chemical compounds in sweat and aim to correlate these with different health states. The sensors would be a useful feature in fitness-tracking wearable devices, as sodium or potassium levels can indicate hydration, while the presence of lactate can reveal muscle fatigue.

In addition to tracking athletic performance, the tech may also be useful for determining if a person has depression or has been exposed to hazardous chemicals.

For more on the advances driving the next wave of wearable tech, see CES 2016: Personal Electronics, Wearable Technology Show 2015 and Wired Health 2015.