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Collaboration on intelligent and versatile wireless technology

06 May 2016

Loughborough University engineers will develop novel wireless technology capable of measuring impacts to the body of both athletes and vulnerable patients.

Image courtesy of Loughborough University

The vibration sensor, which is discreet enough to be embedded in clothing, is also suitable for use in aerospace and automotive settings.

It is envisaged that the accelerometer – as it is also known – will make an impact in wearable technology because it contains microprocessors that are capable of handling large amounts of data. The device can be used to measure acceleration forces i.e. on a ship or aircraft, and can also sense the vibration of a machine, for example.

The fact that the technology will be wireless means that natural body movements will not be restricted, enabling athletes, for example, and sports equipment such as tennis rackets, to be accurately assessed for instances of impact and shock transmission. 

The technology can also be put to good use in a hospital setting, providing reliable and immediate detection of falls by measuring the shock acceleration of a patient fall from a bed, for example. This sudden movement can also trigger an alarm so that immediate assistance and/or medical support can be delivered.

The University’s Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, which has expertise in wireless communications, has entered into a two-year collaboration with DJB Instruments (UK) Ltd.

The project, which represents an investment in innovation of almost £150,000, is anticipated to create new jobs and boost DJB Instruments (UK) Ltd’s profits by around £500,000 per year within three years. 

Meanwhile, Loughborough University has secured grant funding of almost £100,000 towards the project through Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP).

Peter Strutton, Business Development Manager at Loughborough University, said: “This collaboration allows us to make big strides forward into the world of next generation wireless technology where microsensors can be used discreetly in small spaces, without affecting the behaviours which are being monitored. 

“Because our wireless accelerometers will be made of smaller and lighter components, this means that they can be used to gather detailed and accurate knowledge of movement and vibration in a variety of settings, including aerospace and automotive, without the restriction, cost and complexity of traditional wired methods.”

Neill Ovenden, Managing Director of DJB Instruments (UK) Ltd, which is known for its patented high sensitivity products and measurement sensors, said: “We have been going through a structured growth program over the last few years and have enjoyed great success in developing and launching new products. This has led to a strong growth in sales, however we have to look to the future.

“This partnership with Loughborough University is a critical element of our technology platform development. We are very lucky to be working with one of the UK’s leading engineering universities, and we are looking forward to learning from the team there as well as passing on our own industry experience.”

The KTP has helped fund a new research and development engineer at DJB Instruments (UK) Ltd to work on the project, who will be supported by the interdisciplinary research expertise of Loughborough University’s Dr James Flint (wireless communications) and Professor Steve Rothberg (vibration analysis).

Video courtesy of Loughborough University.

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