Inspired by personal experiences Kaunas resident created a smart cardio T-shirt
Researchers analyzing innovation say that it is born at a point where two planes intersect: deep specific knowledge and a broad experiential horizon. It can be said that the innovation – smart electrocardiographic shirt Cardio Gedi – created by Kaunas resident Gediminas Mikulėnas confirms this theory. The invention was born by combining knowledge accumulated over many years with Gediminas’ personal experiences.
“Why am I doing this? Because I like it, I am curious, it’s fun,” inventor and a PhD Gediminas Mikulėnas says. Having had experienced a heart attack himself, he wondered how he could use his knowledge to help other people who are at risk of a heart attack.
“Usually, a person who has had a stroke or heart attack is not monitored after the treatment or rehabilitation. And often many of us do not understand or notice the signs of an impending stroke. Therefore, naturally, I thought that if we had the opportunity to monitor the body parameters of such people remotely, we could save many lives,” G. Mikulėnas ponders.
Thus, the idea was born to create not only an accurate but also an affordable wearable device that would accurately record the signals sent by the body and the recorded data could be accessed at any time for medical review or monitored remotely even if the patient and cardiologist are in different parts of the world.
On the one hand, modern medicine is facing increasingly acute problems, like aging society, ischemic heart disease, and heart attacks, which are becoming the leading cause of death. On the other hand, health care services are becoming more and more expensive. Therefore, when creating the smart t-shirt, Gediminas paid great attention to the fact that remote monitoring could be used by as many people as possible. When choosing technologies, he cares not only about functionality but also about rationality, so that the product would not only function smoothly, but also remain affordable to the consumer. The inventor calculates that the price of a T-shirt is currently about 600 euro but has no doubt that with the start of mass production, the price should fall by more than half.
Continuous remote monitoring
With the Cardio Gedi smart T-shirt, electrocardiographic monitoring takes place continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The patient is constantly monitored at home. They are aware of it, and can remain calm, knowing that they will be informed when a problem arises. A message about any changes in the heart function will be sent to the mobile phones of both the patient and their doctor.
The biosignal sensors are made from silver and transferred by printing technology to a T-shirt that also has a battery attached to it. Another advantage for the patient using this type of device is the ability to avoid repeated visits to health centers. This is especially relevant to older people with mobility issues or living in remote rural areas.
“It’s an ideal device to capture heartbeats, especially at night. If the person was feeling unwell, they can ask a cardiologist to review the recorded history of the heart data, where deviations from normal heart function will be clearly visible. There is also an online mode, real-time remote monitoring, and the possibility to review the records,” Gediminas Mikulėnas, a 66-year-old inventor says.
An invention born in Kaunas
Gediminas was born and raised in Kaunas, where he graduated with a degree in applied mathematics from Kaunas Polytechnic Institute (now Kaunas University of Technology). He later obtained a doctorate in the field of biosignal recognition. It is this experience, as well as the contacts and acquaintances established over the years through sports, helped him discover the people with the necessary competencies, who joined the production of the smart t-shirts. The inventor is grateful for patience and support, not only to the like-minded people but also to his family.
“It took 5 years to get from the first idea to the creation of the current product, a functional prototype. Of course, it takes time to realize an idea. I had to understand what kind of thing it is, how to combine textile with metals, how to transfer the recorded data to the phone and how to display it. How to then transfer the information from the smartphone to server – a data base – and from it to an app that doctors could use anywhere int he world. I had to look for answers to all these questions. My final vision was heart supervision without national borders. Even if the patient and the doctor are separated by thousands of kilometers. Why? Because then the local monopoly also disappears, and you can get a consultation from any doctor. Lithuanian patient can seek a consultation with a Japanese cardiologist and a Lithuanian cardiologist can consult a German patient and so on and so forth.”
A fully functional prototype
According to Gediminas, the current stage of the product is a well-functioning prototype, which has already been approved by the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania as a permitted to use cardiological device. At the moment, a very important part of the process awaits – medical research, after which remote medical care based on smart textile could reach the home of every person at risk of a heart attack. Especially since, according to Gediminas, the interest in the device is huge. People find it themselves, call and ask when it would be possible to purchase it.
“We are currently testing the T-shirt, reviewing the parameters, checking the reliability. I dream of having about 50 to 100 testees. For a device to be registered as a medical device, comprehensive medical research is required, which of course costs money. But we are working in that direction,” Gediminas says.
According to him, another obvious challenge awaits in the future and that is training the doctors to work innovatively, teaching them, and reorienting them from static to a dynamic model of patient monitoring. And this, Gediminas believes, is inevitable for today’s medicine, which is increasingly focused on disease prevention: learning how to avert the illness.
In total, about 10 people worked and continue to work on the product. And the author of the idea himself says that the whole creative process took place not as a search for the right solution, but as a rejection of wrong decisions.
“We try one solution, it doesn’t work. We try a second one, it’s bad, we throw it out. We create a third option, and it would work but appears to be too expensive. We reach the fourth and there we go, perfect, let’s roll! And you follow this route until you discover the best solutions for each link,” Gediminas recalls the last year’s work on Cardio Gedi. He claims that although individual t-shirt details are purchased in various countries, the final product will definitely be assembled here in Lithuania and will be a real Lithuanian product.