Pressure sensitive insoles tested to detect muscular skeletal disorders
Infi-Tex worked with University of Kent academics to validate and test how a material they had developed for 'smart' , pressure-sensitive insoles, could be used to detect changes in gait caused by injury.
Infi-Tex is a start-up company who specialise in digital smart clothing development, including a new patented, pressure-sensitive material, which enables switches and sensors to be screen printed onto textiles. Due to the wide range of possible products that can be developed from connected textiles, Infi-Tex sought academic expertise from both the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences and their School of Computing. With EIRA R&D funding, the project team collaborated on validating and testing the potential of the insoles to be used as diagnostic tools.
A significant proportion of the adult population commonly suffer from musculoskeletal pain (MSK), in particular in the lower back and knee. This type of pain is caused by overuse, injury or inflammation, and is associated with a detrimental impact on quality of life and the ability to engage in exercise. The early detection and diagnosis of such conditions could go a long way in improving an individual’s quality of life and general fitness. Therefore, Infi-Tex’s aim was to prove that their new technology could detect changes in gait caused by injury.
Academics from the University of Kent, Dr Lex Mauger and Dr Ling (Caroline) Li, conducted a research study comparing the walking gait of participants who were not in pain, and induced acute MSK pain conditions whilst wearing smart-soles. Data acquired from smart-soles in no-pain conditions was recorded and analysed using machine learning AI. The data was then compared to the measurements when pain was induced, which ascertained a proof-of-principle as to whether the smart-soles could be used to detect changes in walking gait arising from MSK pain.
“This EIRA funding has provided a supportive and flexible means to help develop this really interesting technology. By taking a multi-disciplinary approach and linking business with academia, this project has helped establish a proof-of-concept for the insoles which we hope to further develop in our ongoing collaborative work.” – Dr. Lex Mauger, University of Kent
The two main aims from the research were fulfilled:
- The Infi-Tex insoles are able to detect key gait characteristics.
- This detection is sensitive enough to distinguish changes in gait arising from acute MSK pain.
This was important, as it suggests that the technology could be further developed for use in clinical and sporting populations where identifying changes in gait facilitates the treatment and management of chronic conditions, such as the rehabilitation from acute injury, or enhancement of athletic performance.
The project also identified refinements that could be implemented to the design of the smart-soles to improve their reliability, connectivity and detection performance.
“Thank you so much for all your hard work. I am really impressed with what the team managed to achieve from some rather difficult products. We have rectified almost all of the issues now and would love you to see the much improved soles.” – Myra Waiman, CEO of Infi-Tex
Infi-Tex are keen to continue their collaborations with the team from the University of Kent and are investigating other avenues for further funding, including applying for the Innovate UK Smart Grant award.
Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash