Protecting Workers’ Health
Biosensing fabric for health management
New worker health monitoring service launched
Manager, Tokyo Uniform Section, Uniform & Advanced Textiles Department, Toray Industries, Inc.
Note: job titles are as of May 2016.
In 2014, Toray and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) developed hitoe™1 biosensing fabric. Using the fabric, the two companies have developed a system that enables organizations to monitor the health status of their workers in real time. The service2 was launched in April 2016.
The system requires workers to wear clothing made from hitoe™ biosensing fabric, which sends data to a smartphone and from there to the cloud. The data can be viewed in real time from a computer, to monitor the wearer’s heart rate and metrics for heat exposure, work intensity, and accidental falls. If two or more metrics reach a concerning level, the system sends an email alert to the supervisor or worker.
The service is suited for environments where there is a risk that workers might notice too late that their health is at risk, such as working outdoors, working alone or for elderly workers. Based on testing and feedback in the field, Toray has made improvements to the clothing shape, breathability, and laundry durability, such as developing a waist-supporting type for older workers and using mesh fabric at critical areas for conditions that could cause heat stroke.
Heat stroke and population aging are issues in many countries besides Japan. Moving forward, we will also focus on the global market. We have already started to discuss trials in China and the United States.
- 1 A biosensing fabric made from nanofibers coated with highly conductive polymer resin that enable sensing of body data and measurement of heart rate, cardiographic waveforms, and other metrics.
- 2 As of May 31, 2016, Toray is using the service at the Nagoya Plant to monitor a group of five workers.
In our workplace, a small group of people manage a big area including an area with high temperatures. This made it a challenge to ensure that our workers were safe when working alone. When we learned that the company would be field-testing the hitoe™ biosensing fabric internally, we thought it would be perfect for our workplace and agreed to take part in the trial. There is a lot of interest in the system within our workplace and everyone has been great about cooperating with the trial. We regularly give feedback to the developing department so that they can improve the system. The service enables managers to monitor the status and whereabouts of workers even if alerts can’t be heard, helping us to keep our people safe.
Manager, Polymerization Department, Manufacturing Division, Nagoya Plant, Toray Industries, Inc.