62IEEE REVIEWS IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, VOL. 1, 2008
Wearable Medical Systems for p-Health
Xiao-Fei Teng, Member, IEEE, Yuan-Ting Zhang, Fellow, IEEE, Carmen C. Y. Poon, Member, IEEE, and
Paolo Bonato, Senior Member, IEEE
Abstract—Driven by the growing aging population, prevalence
of chronic diseases, and continuously rising healthcare costs, the
healthcare system is undergoing a fundamental transformation,
from the conventional hospital-centered system to an individual-
centered system. Current and emerging developments in wearable
medical systems will have a radical impact on this paradigm shift.
Advances in wearable medical systems will enable the accessibility
and affordability of healthcare, so that physiological conditions
can be monitored not only at sporadic snapshots but also contin-
uously for extended periods of time, making early disease detec-
tion and timely response to health threats possible. This paper re-
views recent developmentsin the area of wearable medical systems
for p-Health. Enabling technologies for continuous and noninva-
sive measurements of vital signs and biochemical variables, ad-
vances in intelligent biomedical clothing and body area networks,
approaches for motion artifact reduction, strategies for wearable
energy harvesting, and the establishment of standard protocols for
the evaluation of wearable medical devices are presented in this
paper with examples of clinical applications of these technologies.
clothing, motion artifact, pervasive computing, wearable health-
Terms—Energy scavenging, intelligent biomedical
lion in 2006. By 2030, the number will be almost doubled to
around 1 billion . While global aging represents a triumph
of medical, social and economic advances over disease, it also
presents tremendous challenges to the society and healthcare
GING of the population is a global phenomenon. The el-
derly population aged 65 and above numbered 500 mil-
Kong Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) and in part by the following in-
dustrial sponsors: Standard Telecommunications Ltd., Jetfly Technology Ltd.,
Golden Meditech Company Ltd., Bird International Ltd., and Bright Step Cor-
X.-F. Teng and C. C. Y. Poon are with the Joint Research Center for Biomed-
ical Engineering, Department of Electronic Engineering, The Chinese Univer-
sity of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China.
Y.-T. Zhang is with the Joint Research Center for Biomedical Engineering,
Department of Electronic Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong,
Shatin, Hong Kong, China. He is also with the Key Laboratory for Biomedical
Informatics and Health Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenzhen
518067, China, and also with the SIAT—Institute of Biomedical and Health
Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenzhen 518067, China (e-mail:
P. Bonato is with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,
USA, and also with The Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Tech-
nology, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA.
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/RBME.2008.2008248
to outpace economic growth. Per capita health spending has in-
creased by more than 80% from 1990 to 2005, exceeding the
in 2002 to 69% in 2030 . If not carefully prevented and man-
aged, chronic diseases will become the most expensive finan-
cial burden on our society . For example, it is anticipated that
China will lose $558 billion in foregone national income over
the next ten years due to premature deaths caused by heart dis-
ease, stroke and diabetes, according to the World Health Organ-
ization’s global report in 2005 .
The growing aging population, skyrocketing healthcare
costs, and prevalence of chronic diseases are the main driving
forces to propel the fundamental transformation of the cur-
rent healthcare systems . Health providers are looking for
more cost-effective and responsive ways to deliver healthcare
services . The conventional hospital-centered healthcare
system, which focuses on diagnosis and treatment, is shifting
its focus towards an individual-centered healthcare system with
emphasis on early detection of risk factors, early diagnosis,
and early treatment –. The new paradigm of p-Health
aims to “encourage the participation of the whole nation in
the prevention of illnesses or early prediction of diseases such
that pre-emptive treatment can be delivered thus achieving a
pervasive and personalized healthcare .” In this paradigm
shift, wearable medical systems have been recognized as an
enabling technology for monitoring an individual’s health
condition on a continuous basis, feeding relevant information
back to the users and/or medical professionals, and firing an
alarm signal when an adverse condition occurs , –.
The work that has been carried out so far in the area of wear-
able medical systems has been mainly focused on noninvasive
monitoring of vital signs, like the electrocardiogram (ECG),
heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP), respiratory rate and blood
oxygen saturation (
), in an attempt to collect informa-
tion that may lead to the prediction or prevention of diseases.
Some other systems have been designed utilizing inertial sen-
sors, e.g., accelerometer, and generally sensors to detect move-
ment and movement characteristics with the aim of identifying
certain features of human posture and kinematic activity ,
. To assess a person’s health status, biochemical measure-
ments on body fluids (blood, sweat, urine) may be sometimes
needed and several methods have been recently proposed to ad-
dress this issue , . In most prototypes of wearable sys-
tems, microelectronics and electrical sensors are integrated in
body-worn devices, e.g., gloves , wrist-worn devices ,
1937-3333/$25.00 © 2008 IEEE
TENG et al.: WEARABLE MEDICAL SYSTEMS FOR P-HEALTH 63
alternative approach is the development of intelligent biomed-
ical clothing (IBC) with embedded sensing capability, .
This paper summarizes the state-of-the-art of wearable med-
ical systems for p-Health. Recently developed enabling tech-
nologies are reviewed in the areas of continuous and noninva-
sive measurements of physiological parameters and biochem-
ical variables, IBC, and body area networks. Examples of re-
lated research projects are also provided. Three critical issues
in the development of wearable medical systems are thoroughly
discussed, i.e., the need for minimizing motion artifacts, the
need for developing ways to achieve energy harvesting, and the
urgency to establish standard protocols for the evaluation of
newly developed wearable medical systems. In addition, sev-
eral application scenarios are presented.
II. WEARABLE SENSING OF PHYSIOLOGICAL PARAMETERS
AND BIOCHEMICAL VARIABLES
A. Cardiac Activity
There are numerous well-known signals and related parame-
ters that capture the main characteristics of the cardiac activity.
Among them, HR is one of the simplest and most informative
cardiovascular parameters. Besides HR, heart rate variability
(HRV) has also gained increasing attention as an indicator of
the health status of the cardiovascular system . Moreover,
various physiological signals can be derived from recordings of
the cardiac activity by using different models. In this respect,
Tröster  has proposed the following viewpoints:
When considering the heart as an electrical generator, the
electrical activity of the heart can be measured by placing elec-
trodes directly in contact with the skin. Although wet silver/
silver-chloride electrodes are widely used for measuring the
ECG in a conventional clinical setting, recent developments in
smart fabrics allow flexible conductive yarns made by metal
glad aramid fibers, soft polymers or conductive rubber to be
developed by Philips Research, the electrodes are integrated in
a belt, which has been proven to be suitable for long-term use
When considering the heart as a moving muscle, the mea-
surement of cardiac activity is possible without having elec-
trodes directly in contact with the skin. This is achieved by
means of microwave sensors on the basis of the Doppler ef-
fect to detect movements of the heart , . This approach
is well suited for home monitoring because of its unobtrusive-
ness. A single-chip implementation of this technology has been
presented in a recent paper by Droitcour et al. . A system
of this type provides information about the rhythmic activity of
the heart but not the detailed morphology of ECG.
When considering the heart as a pump, the changing blood
volume can be measured by sensing changes in the electrical
resistance of the body via sensors positioned on the skin. This
technique is known as impedance plethysmography  or as
photoplethysmography  according to the way the measure-
ment is implemented. The impedance plethysmography tech-
nique is based on measuring the electrical resistance of parts of
the body such as the chest, calf, etc to estimate blood volume
changes. The photoplethysmography technique utilizes a light
emitting diode (LED) placed at peripheral sites, e. g. the fin-
gertip or earlobe, to measure transmitted or reflective light via a
bert Law as blood flow changes.
When considering the heart as a noisy pump, HR can also be
monitored by a phonocardiographic (PCG) sensor mounted on
the chest , . In a paper by Tanaka et al. , a simple
system was proposed to measure HR and respiration rate. This
was achieved by setting an accelerometer on a water-mat or
air-mat to measure the vibration of the mat caused by the ac-
tivity of the heart and the movements associated with respira-
tified sensor output or by local pattern matching between the
rectified output and a reference signal (prememorized for each
subject), the system measured the average heart rate and respi-
ratory rate as well as the instantaneous interpulse interval .
B. Blood Pressure
Among different vital signs, BP is one that requires atten-
tion even in asymptomatic subjects. In fact, the majority of the
individuals with hypertension experience no symptoms. Conse-
quently, most of the individuals with hypertension have no ap-
parent reason to consult a doctor and thus often overlook their
ailments. Recent studies also demonstrated that BP variability
(BPV) is an independent indicator of morbidity and mortality
due to a cardiovascular disease , .
A number of wearable systems for BP measurement have
been developed based on conventional measurement techniques
such as the oscillometric method. Instead of measuring on the
watch-type ambulatory BP monitors that can be applied to mea-
sure BP over the radial artery at the wrist. Another watch type
BP monitor, called MediWatch, uses arterial tonometry to cap-
ture the radial pulse waveform and yields BP measures after the
waveform is calibrated . Vasotrac (Medwave, Arden Hills,
MN) is also a wrist type BP monitor, which provides BP mea-
surements approximately every 12–15 beats via analysis of the
Although no cuff is needed in the MediWatch and Vasotrac
systems, an external pressure is still required to exert on the
wrist and the reliability and accuracy of the BP measures is lo-
cation-sensitive. Other problems include the disruption of sleep
and other activities of daily living, and irritation of the skin un-
derneath the cuff/sensor. These systems provide only sporadic
readings and are not fully wearable and unobtrusive. There-
blood pressure monitors.
measured as the time interval between the R-peak of the ECG
and the characteristic point of photoplethysmogram (PPG). To
use the system measuring BP regularly or continuously over ex-
tensive periods of time, the electrodes and photo detector can
be incorporated into a watch  or a module that is wirelessly
64 IEEE REVIEWS IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, VOL. 1, 2008
connected with a mobile phone or Personal Digital Assistants
(PDAs) . The first PTT-based watch-typed blood pressure
monitor was produced by Casio and it was on sale in 1992. Al-
Zhang and his group have investigated the effect of several fac-
tors, i.e., finger temperature , sensor contact force , and
parable estimation accuracy has been achieved taking the read-
ings from a sphygmomanometer as in . Recently, the re-
search group led by Prof. Asada at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, proposed a motion-based adaptive blood pressure
estimation, which allows complete calibration of PTT to BP
without the use of an oscillometric blood pressure cuff or ex-
ternal pressure sensor , .
C. Blood Oxygen Saturation
Optical transducers applied directly to the skin can deter-
mine the percentage of hemoglobin bound with oxygen. Blood
oxygen saturation is a vital indicator of a patient’s health con-
sidering that a human being cannot survive for a prolonged time
without a constant oxygen supply to the brain. The first proto-
type of a wearable reflectance pulse oximeter including a radio
frequency (RF) data transmission unit was miniaturized in a
finger-ring configuration , . This pulse oximeter allows
one to continuously monitor HR and
sive way since the device is shaped like a ring, it can be com-
fortably worn by a subject for long periods of time. The ring
sensor is equipped with a low-power transceiver that accom-
plishes bidirectional communication with a base station, thus
allowing one to reconfigure the sensor when necessary and to
upload data at any point in time.
particular interest for measuring aerobic efficiency of a person
undertaking an exercise routine. In addition to monitoring and
maximizing athletic performance, information pertaining to the
itary and space applications where changes in gravity and other
sources of stress may result in fatigue, and ultimately, black-
outs. Awearable system for noninvasively determining theoxy-
genation state of tissue located beneath the surface of the skin,
such as muscle tissue, of an exercising person or a person at
rest led to a first patent covering this line of work in 1992 .
In such system, a wearable detector array, placed on the leg,
used near-infrared radiation to collect oxygenation data. Data
could be displayed by a wristband indicator of a telemetry de-
vice for remote monitoring. A separate, user-wearable battery
pack, preferably designed to provide power for the duration of
the activity being monitored, was also envisioned.
Forehead is another location for measuring blood oxygena-
tion using wearable devices , . Researchers at Drexel
University and the University of Pennsylvania are developing a
wearable neuro-imaging device that enables continuous, nonin-
vasive, and minimally obtrusive monitoring of changes in blood
oxygenation and blood volume related to human brain func-
tion . Positive correlation between a participant’s perfor-
mance and oxygenation responses as a function of task load
has been found. Functional optical imaging of the prefrontal
in a totally unobtru-
cortex using near infrared is an emerging affordable and wear-
able sensing modality able to monitor physiological changes
that occur during cognitive tasks.
Respiration is an important physiologic function that is mul-
tidimensional in nature. A detailed quantification of volume,
timing and shape of the respiratory waveform can map into dif-
ferent physiological states. Respiration is associated with the
kinematics of the chest thereby bringing about changes of the
thoracic volume. The inductive plethysmography (IP) method
is the gold standard for unobtrusive respiratory monitoring and
has been used widely in clinical and research settings. A respi-
ratory IP sensor consists of two conductive wires, one around
the ribcage and the other around the abdomen . Motions of
the chest wall cause changes in the self inductance of the two
gaugeswrapped aroundthetorsoare suitedfor systemsthatrely
onembedding sensorsinto clothing itemssuch as undergarment
. Recently,a wearable yarn-based piezo-resistive sensor has
been developed . This yarn-based sensor was fabricated by
using piezo-resistive fibers, elastic, and regular polyester fibers.
Single and double wrapping methods were employed to fab-
ricate the yarn-based sensors. Due to the symmetric structure
of the sensor, the double wrapping yarn could resist the slip-
page and higher linearity in the resistance curve was achieved.
Sensing techniques based on the operating principle underlying
the Doppler effect are also under investigation as discussed in
E. Biochemical Measurements
Several methods, such as iontophoresis, electrophoresis and
ficiency of the “extraction” of body fluids through the skin .
As our largest “organ,” the skin enables noninvasive/mini-in-
vasive measurements of several analytes including blood glu-
cose, lactate, immunoglobulins, amino acids, and small pro-
teins. Taking blood glucose as an example, methods that have
the potential to be applied in the development of wearable sys-
tems  are introduced in the following.
The method of iontophoresis, which has been used for
many decades, utilizes electrical current to deliver charged
drug compounds through the skin. Noninvasive monitoring,
however, uses transport of glucose in the opposite direction to
that of drug compounds (i.e., from the skin outward); therefore
this process has been called “reverse iontophoresis” . The
GlucoWatch monitor developed by Animas Technologies is
a wristwatch device that utilizes such technique with two
independent potentiostat circuits . This measurement is
possible because neutral molecules, such as glucose, are ex-
tracted through the epidermis surface via this electro-osmotic
flow to the iontophoretic cathode, along with
system can read glucose levels every 10 min for up to 13 h.
Reverse iontophoresis is not the only method of extracting non-
invasive glucose molecules from the skin. Sonophoresis, using
piezoelectric transducer to create 20 kHz sound waves (i.e.,
ultrasound) that increases cutaneous permittivity to interstitial
TENG et al.: WEARABLE MEDICAL SYSTEMS FOR P-HEALTH65
fluid can also serve this propose . Analyte concentrations
can be determined with standard electrochemical glucose sen-
sors. Initial in vivo laboratory results havebeen reported in.
Electrophoresis involves the application of low current levels
at the skin surface, triggering a transdermal flux of molecules
from the underlying blood vessels, in to extracellular fluid and
to the skin . Other methods with the potential for leading to
a wearable system are the bioimpedance spectroscope, which
was firstly published by Caduff’s group in 2003 ,  and
the near-infrared spectroscopy method .
Recently, a miniaturized “all-in-one” glucose enzyme fuel
cell, which represents a compartmentless fuel cell that is based
on the direct electron transfer principle, has been developed
. This project involved the combination of a wireless trans-
days with stable response. This is the first demonstration of an
fuel cell-type glucose sensor which can be utilized as a subcuta-
neously implantable system for continuous glucose monitoring.
In the case of transdermal monitoring, several factors affect
the accuracy and reliability of the measures such as sweating,
skin color, surface roughness, tissue thickness, breathing arti-
facts, blood flow, body movements, ambient temperature, pres-
sure and sample duration , , . Furthermore, multi-
sensory arrays are required for continuous multianalyte mea-
III. WEARABLE MEDICAL SYSTEMS
The early prototypes of wearable medical systems are mainly
ized, integrated,networked, digitalized, and smart(MINDS) for
ally relatively small body area and cannot fulfill, alone, all the
user. An alternative approach to achieve wearable monitoring
is to integrate sensors in clothing items. Intelligent biomedical
clothing refersusuallyto clotheswithsensorsthatareclose
to or in contact with the skin . The sensors are either em-
bedded in the fabric of the garment, or it is the fabric itself that
is used as a sensor or a sensor suite , . Several proto-
types of wearable medical devices/systems are shown in Fig. 1.
Several prototypes of IBC systems have been developed over
ambulatory monitoring system that can collect data during a
person’s daily routine , , However, it is unsuitable for
lengthy continuous monitoring due to the cumbersome recorder
and peripheral attachment to be carried around. To address
the limitations of the first prototype developed in the area of
sensorized garments, researchers shifted their focus on smart
textiles. Smart textiles have become one of the thriving areas
of application for materials and nanotechnology research for
the purpose of health monitoring. The smart textile approach
of Sensatex, i.e., the Smartshirt, originally developed and
patented by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology,
collects analog signals through conductive fiber sensors and
transfers them through a conductive fiber grid knitted in the
Fig. 1. Examples of wearable medical devices/system prototype. From the
upper left corner clockwise are an earlobe device , a watch (provided by
Jetfly Technology Ltd.), a finger ring , a glove , a wrist-worn device
AMON , a jacket, and a smart textile cloth .
T-shirt . Another example is VTAMN, which aims at
reaching a higher level of electronic integration in clothing than
previous prototypes . The objective is to obtain a biocloth,
or second skin, both comfortable and washable. The T-shirt
incorporates four smooth, dry ECG electrodes, a shock/fall
sensor, a respiration rate sensor, and two temperature sensors.
bus is also part of the textile. The moth-
erboard, the transmission module, and the power supply are
mounted on a belt and connected to the VTAMN T-shirt through
Up-to-date, sensing body movements or physiological sig-
nals, particularly the ECG and respiration, remains the main
function of an IBC. The measurement of BP is still a challenge
for IBC because of the conventional cuff-based principle uti-
lized for BP measurement. In a recent manuscript by Zhang et
al.  a Health-Shirt (h-Shirt) that can monitor BP cufflessly
and continuously has been proposed. The h-Shirt is designed to
simultaneously record ECG and PPG and uses them to estimate
BP with the PTT-based method. ECG is captured from the two
wrists,with a referenceelectrode placedon theforearmto avoid
respiration-induced noise. The electrodes were made of e-tex-
tile materials. A photo reflective sensor is mounted on a PCB to
capture PPG from the fingertip. Male side fasten snap buttons
are soldered to the PCB copper pads for connection and signal
transmission. Fig. 2 shows the frontal view of the shirt when the
user is measuring BP and ECG continuously. The performance
has been evaluated .
Other studies performed in the area of IBC include: a wear-
able physiological monitoring system for space and terrestrial
applications named Life Guard ; the Armband SenseWear
(BodyMedia Inc., Pittsburgh, PA) wearable body monitor that
66 IEEE REVIEWS IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, VOL. 1, 2008
Fig. 2. h-shirt prototype .
has been used to study body movement and energy expendi-
ture in healthy as well as subjects with chronic obstructive pul-
monary disease ; the WEALTHY system that is made up of
a sensorized cotton or lycra shirt that integrates carbon-loaded
elastomer strain sensors and fabric bio-electrodes, enabling the
monitoring of respiration, ECG, electromyogram (EMG), body
posture and movement ; a textile based wearable system,
called MagIC designed for unobtrusively recording cardiores-
piratory and motion signals during daily life and in a clinical
environment on patients with different cardiovascular condi-
tions ; and the MyHeart wearable monitoring system that
focuses on integration of unobtrusive sensors into everyday gar-
ments and miniaturized on-body electronic modules for data
like ECG preprocessing and motion artifact detection, compu-
tation of HR and HRV , .
The approach of ongoing research and development is to
integrate monitoring, diagnosis, treatment and communica-
tion functions into fabrics. Several issues, technical as well
as clinical, remain to be solved before a clinical trial can be
performed. Among the most important challenges are the
production of higher conductivity textile material according
to current industrial processes, as well as the interfacing and
protection of electronic components.
IV. BODY AREA NETWORK
The need to develop a network is drivenby the increase in the
number of wearable or implanted biosensors or devices to be
placed on users. In particular, for many applications in which
long-term and continuous collection of health information is
needed, multiple sensors or devices are often required to be
a human body to interconnect sensors worn on or implanted in
the body, it is named body area network (BAN). It is also some-
times referred as body sensor network (BSN) when used in a
medical or health application where each node of the network
comprises a biosensor or a medical device with a sensing unit.
Setting up a BAN to connect on-body or in-body sensors or
devices helps to optimize the use of resources in order to satisfy
the stringent constraints in the terminals. For example, health
information collected from different sensors can be centralized
diagnosis, or treatment. In addition, the presence of a BAN can
also enhance the control, scheduling, and programming of the
overall system such that it is adaptive to body condition and ex-
ternal environment. For example, some sensors or devices may
have to be reprogrammed from time to time (e.g., a device for
From the user’s point-of-view, intra-BAN communication
should be via connections that are as unobtrusive as possible.
Technological advances in microtechnologies and nanotech-
nologies, application-specific integrated circuits, wireless
networking, and embedded microcontrollers and radio inter-
faces on a single chip  have enabled wireless connectivity
of individual sensors into a wireless BAN (WBAN)  that
uses RF techniques ,  such as ultrawideband (UWB)
radio technology –, Bluetooth ,  and ZigBee
. Bluetooth is a mature technology that has been integrated
in many cell phones and PDAs. It allows high communication
bandwidth of up to 720 kb/s. Despite Bluetooth can be set
into a low-power mode, power consumption and complexity of
protocol stack implementation is still a limiting factor for most
WBAN applications. ZigBee is an emerging wireless standard
for low data rate, very low-power applications, with potential
applications in WBAN. The maximum data rate provided by
ZigBee (250 kb/s) is sufficient for most of the health and
medical applications using wearable systems . Among
different wireless communication technologies, UWB is of
particular interest. Its operation is based on the use of narrow
pulses of extremely short duration (a few nanoseconds) instead
of continuous RF waves. These narrow pulses are essentially
responsible for a signal bandwidth in the gigahertz range. UWB
is a very low power communication protocol, which is very
important as far as power management of wearable systems is
concerned. UWB supports very high data transmission rates,
hundreds of Mb/s, for short ranges up to a few meters. UWB
applications are not only restricted to wireless communication
but extend to detect heart and respiratory rate, as we discussed
above. Finally, it is worth mentioning that UWB is the only
wireless RF technology that can determine the position of an
object with an accuracy of a few centimeters.
While wireless RF techniques are still a main research area
for BAN, the unique characteristics of BAN open up the oppor-
tunity of connecting sensing nodes through other means. For
example, nodes that are close to each other could be connected
through “wires,” provided that the appearance of the user is
not too adversely affected and his mobility not impaired. In
this respect, a research group from Georgia Institute of Tech-
nology – proposed the concept of wearable mother-
board, where fabric made of e-textiles is developed into a com-
puter and served as a framework for personalized mobile infor-
TENG et al.: WEARABLE MEDICAL SYSTEMS FOR P-HEALTH 67
Fig. 3. Example of setting up a hybrid body area network to acquire multiple physiological signals and parameters.
Even more uniquely, since nodes of BAN are placed in or on
the human body, they are inherently linked by pathways which
we name biological channels (bio-channels) . Bio-chan-
nels are commonly referred to the voltage-gated channels that
allow the exchange of selected ions across the otherwise imper-
meable cell membrane. In this context, we use bio-channel to
enables the transfer either exogenous or endogenous informa-
tion. Signals transmitted via bio-channels could be either pro-
cessed information or biological data. As some of thebiological
data are uniquetoindividuals, theycouldpotentially be aniden-
tifier of the owner of BAN. Thus, a biometrics approach using
bio-channels could be used to secure wireless communications
in BAN . Another example of the use of bio-channels is
to transmit the arrival time of a pulse at the finger tip to a pro-
cessing unit worn on the wrist of the users .
The different communication means discussed in this section
pending on the application, one or more communication means
should be used in a BAN to connect the various sensors and to
communicate withtheexternalworld, i.e.,theconcept ofhybrid
BAN (h-BAN). As illustrated in Fig. 3, the design of a BAN
may include using e-textile materials wove in a jacket to con-
nect e-textile-based electrodes that capture ECG from the two
a ring senor that detects the pulse to another sensor node that
contains a processing unit and using wireless RF techniques to
send information to an external device or terminal for analysis
V. STANDARDS AND OTHER ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES
In order to develop a wearable medical system for p-Health,
different enabling technologies and standard protocols are
needed to meet the unique requirements of MINDS devices and
the BAN that connects them. We will discuss a number of them
in this section.
A. Motion Artifact Reduction
The presence of motion artifacts is a major limitation in most
practical implementations of wearable medical systems. In a
recent position paper, the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and
Biology Society technical committee on Wearable Biomedical
Sensors and Systems (WBSS) identified sensing of biomedical
signals and the estimation of related parameters as a core func-
tion of WBSS . However, there are conflicting design tar-
gets, i.e., for comfort and ease of use, that make it impossible
to reach the clinically required signal quality in ambulatory pa-
tients while enabling acceptable comfort level for the user/pa-
tient when long-term, continuous monitoring is required .
Methods to reduce motion artifacts can be implemented at
cuitry and development of signal processing methods . At
present, a majority of the studies were performed in PPG. Com-
mercially available pulse oximeter often reduce artifact-related
errors by frequency domain heuristic methods  or a spe-
cific transformation known as Discrete Saturation Transform™
(DST) –. DST extracts the true signal from one that
was contaminated by artifacts due to motion and low perfusion
and utilizes a proprietary technique to establish a “noise refer-
ence” in the detected signal such that adaptive filters can be ap-
plied to real-time physiological monitoring. Recent studies also
focus on optimizing the mechanical design of the system and
incorporating signal processing techniques based on: 1) an in-
dependent measure of motion, 2) an optical model, 3) features
recognized from analysis of the corrupted signal, or 4) time-fre-
quency analysis such as the wavelet transform and smoothed
pseudo Wigner–Ville distribution , .
For techniques based on an independent measure of motion,
are employed to record the user’s motion. By assuming that the
artifact is a linear addition to the PPG, the original signal can
be reconstructed from the corrupted signal , . This
hypothesis is however often questioned when inspecting PPG
under typical artifact-producing forces . This observation
has been driving researchers to develop more realistic models
for the PPG or the artifact .
(MCDST) is a recently proposed algorithm based on an
optical model derived from photon diffusion analysis .
The simulation results show that MCDST is more robust under
68 IEEE REVIEWS IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, VOL. 1, 2008
low signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) than the clinically verified
motion-resistant algorithm DST. Furthermore, the experiment
with different severity of motions demonstrates that MCDST
performs slightly better than DST. MCDST is also computa-
tionally more efficient than the DST method because the former
uses linear algebra instead of the time-consuming adaptive
filter used by the latter, which indicates that MCDST can
reduce the required power consumption and complexity of the
circuit needed for the implementation of the artifact reduction
Techniques based on feature analysis often utilize some pre-
determined criteria to separate regions of corrupted and uncor-
rupted PPG and estimate the desired parameter values (i.e., the
any motion artifacts) from the uncorrupted portion of it ,
B. Energy Harvesting
Wearable medical systems need to be lightweight, small
in size and have long battery life . Therefore, a critical
issue for their design and system integration is to keep power
consumption as low as possible. While it is important to design
MINDS devices and BAN communication protocols with
low power consumption, the frequency of which the battery
is changed or recharged can also be reduced by using exter-
nally powered sensors ,  or employing techniques
to scavenge energy from the environment. For example, a
thermo-electric module produced roughly 60
the temperature gradient between the human body and the am-
bient . The efficiency of these methods however heavily
depends on the condition of the surrounding environment.
A solar cell mounted on the shoulder generated around 100
when the user is under a bright sun but produced a
thousand times less when the user is in an illuminated office
In view of this, researchers looked into methods that are less
dependent on the environment but rely more on the user’s ac-
tivity such as arm motion and walking . Magnetic gener-
ators that were embedded into a sneaker’s sole or added as a
strap-on to an overshoe produced an average of 60 mW and 250
mW, respectively, during standard walking. . Donelan et
al.  recently proposed a new approach to generate elec-
tricity with minimal user effort, where a mechanical generator
coupled to leg motion was selectively engaged only during the
deceleration phase of each stride cycle. This type of “generative
braking” produced electricity at a metabolic cost similar to that
than conventional generation approaches .
Since these energy harvesting techniques are designed to
generate power intermittently, a storage mechanism is often
needed to ensure stable power supply, particularly in between
two power generation cycles, so that sufficient power is avail-
able to the wearable system. A direct solution is to store power
in an electrical form by charging capacitors that can be utilized
to provide power supply during periods of no power generation.
However, simply charging a capacitor results in losing half
of the available power . Moreover, a purely capacitive
solution to the problem is also restricted by size. In such cases,
rechargeable batteries may be employed. Mechanical energy
storage may be more attractive for some of the generation
mechanisms described above. For example, with walking as a
source of power generation, flywheels, pneumatic pumps, and
clock springs may prove more convenient in storing power than
solutions based on electrical components.
Although walking is an extremely useful activity for scav-
enging energy, it is impractical to use it continuously for ex-
tensive periods of time. In contrary, since a person breathes all
the time, it becomes an attractive activity from which energy
are harvested. An emerging direction of research uses fabrics
made from piezoelectric nanowires grown radially around tex-
from breathing or even heartbeats into electrical energy .
C. Standard Protocols for Evaluation and Development
Establishmentofastandard protocolis important forthevali-
devices as well as the communication of these devices in BAN.
Noticing the importance of establishing international stan-
has begun their work in January 2007 on the standard IEEE
P1708, which is the first independent standard for the valida-
tion and comparison of wearable and cuffless BP measuring de-
vices. Although there are existing evaluation standards for con-
ventionalBP measurement devices used with an occludingcuff,
these standards are not suitable to be used directly for the eval-
uation of wearable and cuffless BP devices which rely on a dif-
ferent measurement principle involving an individual calibra-
tion procedure . Based on a model on measurement dif-
ferences between BP test devices and their references, an eval-
uation scale for assessing the accuracy of wearable BP devices
will be proposed in this standard.
In November of the same year, the IEEE 802.15 working
group for Wide Personal Area Networks (WPANs) has formed
a new task group (Task Group 6) to develop an international
devices and operation on, in or around the human body. IEEE
shorter than other wireless technologies that are already avail-
able in the market, such as Bluetooth. Ideally, the short-range
design of BAN should reduce the chances of interference and
eavesdropping but the need for security in BAN is also preva-
lent, especially when it is used for collecting and transmitting
sensitive health and medical information in p-Health. This new
standard is proposed for medical and nonmedical applications,
where the medical applications are further divided into wear-
able BAN or implanted BAN to be used in hospital or outside
VI. APPLICATIONS OF WEARABLE MEDICAL SYSTEMS
Optimal management of many diseases, particularly chronic
noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular and neurolog-
ical diseases, such as congestive heart failure and Parkinson’s
disease, relies on the early detection of and prompt response to
some warning signs of worsening of the patient status or subtle
symptoms that are indicative of inappropriate management of
TENG et al.: WEARABLE MEDICAL SYSTEMS FOR P-HEALTH69
Fig. 4. Illustration of the Wearable Intelligent Sensors and Systems for
p-Health with the h-Shirt. (Artwork courtesy of J. K. Y. Leung, The Chinese
University of Hong Kong) .
ferent stages of the disease according to the patient’s response.
by 1) predicting acute events by long term monitoring and anal-
ysis, 2) providing instant diagnosis of acute events and links
to health care provider/emergency system, and 3) reducing the
time of treatment by the implementation of telemedicine inter-
ventions. Rehabilitation in the home setting can be provided to
maximize functional outcomes in patients with mobility-lim-
iting conditions .
A. Management of Personal Health Conditions
Wearable Intelligent Sensors and Systems for p-Health
(WISSH) is comprised of a collection of miniature biomedical
sensors and devices, which are embodied in or integrated with
wearable nodes (such as watches, finger rings, or clothing), and
use BSN as the communication infrastructure . The h-Shirt
can be considered a device of WISSH. It is worth emphasizing
that it is also possible to connect the h-Shirt with external
peripherals. In the schematic representation shown in Fig. 4,
we illustrate the use of the h-Shirt in WISSH. Sensors on the
h-Shirt are connected to a watch worn by the user and utilized
for display purposes, which is a convenient way for users to
read the monitored physiological parameters and be alerted if
signs of a worsening of the patient status are detected.
a system relying on the h-Shirt , . In the future, we en-
vision that WISSH will be extended to measure other physio-
logical parameters such as respiration and
interest to examine possibilities to broaden the functions of de-
vices of WISSH, e.g., not just to monitor health status but also
to deliver therapeutic interventions. Recent reports suggested
music as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to regulate BP 
. It is also of
music player system can be integrated onto e-textile , ,
, in future, it is envisaged that existing technologies could
be modified and integrated into WISSH to provide real-time BP
management services based on bio-feedback mechanisms.
B. Management of Cardiovascular Conditions
Several multimillion-dollar projects have been conducted in
Europe to develop innovative wearable monitoring systems.
These projects include companies such as Philips, Nokia, and
Ericsson in a leading position. Andreas Lymberis, scientific
officer of the European Commission’s Information Society
directorate believes that “this new means for health monitoring
has the potential to significantly reshape the provision of health
care, assigning new responsibilities for the medical-device
maker, the health practitioner and the patient” . Following
Smartex’s WEALTHY project while focusing on developing
a garment for physiological monitoring, Philips initiated a
project named MyHeart aimed at farther developing technolo-
gies for remote monitoring of patients via wearable sensors and
systems. MyHeart is one of the largest projects supported by
the European Commission in the field of personal healthcare
aiming to use wearable systems to monitor, diagnose and treat
cardiac ailments such as arrhythmias. Shortly after completion
of the EUR 33 millions project, Philips launched another
project entitled HeartCycle in March 2008  that represents
a further step in the direction of developing wearable systems
for clinical applications.
HeartCycle will provide a closed-loop disease management
solution being able to serve patients with congestive heart
failure and/or chronic heart disease, including possible comor-
bidities such as hypertension, diabetes and arrhythmias. This
will be achieved by multiparametric monitoring and analysis
of vital signs and other measurements. The system will con-
tain a patient in-the-loop schema by which the system will
“interact” directly with the patient to support daily treatment.
The system will monitor several aspects of the response to
different interventions, including treatment adherence and
effectiveness. Based on the feedback provided by the system,
researchers expect that compliance will increase, and health
status in patients utilizing this system will improve. The system
will also contain a professional in-the-loop schema by which
medical professionals will be involved in reviewing patient’s
data. The system will automatically alert medical personnel in
cases in which diagnosis or treatment is required. The system
is connected with the hospital information system, to ensure
optimal and personalized care via access to extensive medical
C. Management of Neurological Conditions
term patients’ monitoring, this technology has gained a great
deal of interest in physical medicine and rehabilitation . In
fact, physiatrists and therapists largely see patients with chronic
conditions whose management is the main concern of the clin-
ical personnel (because these are conditions for which a cure
does not exist or has not been identified).
70 IEEE REVIEWS IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, VOL. 1, 2008
An example of clinical application of wearable technology
in the context summarized above is the one of monitoring pa-
tients with Parkinson’s disease. An interest for long-term mon-
itoring of patients with Parkinson’s disease is clearly originated
by the nature of the disease that requires assessing the severity
days in order to capture the variability in severity of symptoms
an interest for long term monitoring of symptoms in patients
with Parkinson’s disease since the mid nineties , . As
wearable technology developed, other authors started focusing
their attention on the possibility of relying upon inertial sensors
to assess the severity of tremor, dyskinesia, and bradykinesia.
Seminal work by Keijser etal. ,  and Hoff et al. 
opened the way to automatically predict the severity of Parkin-
sonian symptoms and facilitate medication titration.
The potential for facilitating medication titration is a very
attractive feature of wearable technology. In the management
of Parkinsonian symptoms, this feature of wearable technology
is particularly attractive as it could improve the management
of patients showing severe motor fluctuations . Motor
fluctuations are changes in the severity of symptoms observed
in association with medication intake. Motor fluctuations span
a time interval of several hours. Patients often do not recollect
accurately the severity of their symptoms. Therefore, the use
of wearable sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes is
very appealing. Such monitoring technique needs then to be
combined with processing techniques that allow one to explore
the relationship between characteristics of the outputs of the
inertial sensors attached to the body segments of interest (i.e.,
those affected by the symptoms) and the actual severity of
symptoms as observed via clinical examination of the patient.
The process of identifying such relationship is very complex
and some authors have leveraged upon data mining techniques
to determine this relationship . This technique has been
recently expanded upon application to patients undergoing
Parkinson’s control therapy via stimulation of the subthalamic
Another example of application of wearable systems of
interest in neurology is the one of monitoring subjects with
epilepsy . The overall objective of long-term monitoring
in these patients is the assessment of pharmacological inter-
ventions in this patient population that address the occurrence
of seizures, hopefully decreasing their frequency, duration,
and severity. One way to approach this problem is to develop
an ambulatory electroencephalogram (EEG) system and then
identify ways to detect or even predict the occurrence of a
seizure . The other way to approach the detection of
seizures is the one of focusing on seizures accompanied by
motor symptoms. In this case, seizures are detected because
of the abnormal movements associated with them. Movement
patterns would be captured via wireless straps of miniaturized
Although advances in wearable medical systems can poten-
tially address most of the challenges currently facing the devel-
opment of a comprehensive and innovative healthcare system
and the transformation to p-Health, several major problems to
To further understand the physiological mechanism is the
foundation to develop innovative measurement principles and
methods for the design of future wearable medical devices. Be-
sides, low power consumption is especially crucial . Due
to the slow varying nature of most physiological signals (from
0.5 to 4 beats per second), designing integrated circuits with
very low cutoff frequency is necessary, though unfortunately it
is very challenging to meet the design specifications for these
systems. Several endeavors have been made in this research
area , . For wearable medical devices to provide
continuous monitoring and health information to doctors or
clinician, seamless transmission of data must be available.
Despite the low-power mode of some wireless communication
standard, power consumption and complexity of the protocol
are still limiting factors . To increase the acceptance of
wearable medical systems, advances must be also made in
interoperability standards that promote information exchange,
plug-and-play device interactions, and reconfigurability .
addressing general symptoms in large patient populations to a
system focused on p-Health, it is hoped that health services will
be accessible and affordable to everyone, whenever and wher-
that many types of medical tests that currently require a person
using wearable medical devices in the home setting.
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Xiao-Fei Teng (M’03) received the B.E. degree and
M. E. degree from Harbin Institute of Technology,
Harbin, China, in 1999 and 2001, respectively, and
the Ph.D. degree from The Chinese University of
Hong Kong (CUHK), Hong Kong. She is a Post-
doctoral Fellow with the Joint Research Center for
Biomedical Engineering at CUHK.
Her current research interests include noninvasive
blood pressure measurement, wearable medical
devices and biosensors for p-Health application, and
music therapy technologies.
74IEEE REVIEWS IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, VOL. 1, 2008 Download full-text
Yuan-Ting Zhang (M’90–SM’93–F’06) received
the M.S. degree from Shandong University, Jinan,
China, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of
New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada, in 1990.
He is Head of the Division of Biomedical Engi-
neering and Director of the Joint Research Center
for Biomedical Engineering at The Chinese Uni-
versity of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. He also serves
currently as the Director of Key Laboratory for
Biomedical Informatics and Health Engineering,
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Director of the
SIAT—Institute of Biomedical and Health Engineering, Chinese Academy of
Sciences, and the Chairman (Adjunct) of the Department of Biomedical En-
gineering, Sun Yat-sen Medical School, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou,
China. He was a Research Associate and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the
University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, from 1989 to 1994. He chaired
the Biomedical Division of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers in 1996/1997
and 2000/2001. His current research interests include neural engineering, THz
imaging, and wearable medical devices and body sensor networks particularly
for mobile health. He has published more than 300 scientific articles in the area
of biomedical engineering.
Dr. Zhang was the Technical Program Chair of the 20th Annual International
Conference in 1998 and the General Conference Chair of the 27th Annual
Int’l Conference in 2005. He served the TPC Chair of IEEE-EMBS Summer
School and Symposium on Medical Devices and Biosensors (ISSS-MDBS) in
2006 and 2007. He was elected as an IEEE-EMBS AdCom member in 1999
and served as Vice-President (Conferences) in 2000. He served as Associate
Editor for IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING and IEEE
TRANSACTIONS ON MOBILE COMPUTING. He was also the Guest Editor of
IEEE Communications Magazine and IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INFORMATION
TECHNOLOGY IN BIOMEDICINE. He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief
of IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN BIOMEDICINE,
Associate Editor of the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.
He is also on a number of Editorial Boards, the Book Series of Biomedical
Engineering published by the IEEE Press and the IEEE-EMBS Technical
Committee of Wearable Systems and Sensors. He is an honorary advisor of
Hong Kong Medical and Healthcare Device Manufacture Association.
Carmen C. Y. Poon (S’07–M’08) received the
B.A.Sc. degree in engineering science (biomedical
option) and the M.A.Sc. degree in biomedical engi-
neering at the University of Toronto, ON, Canada,
and the Ph.D. degree from The Chinese University
of Hong Kong.
She hasbeena PostdoctoralFellowatTheChinese
University of Hong Kong since 2008. Her current
research interests include bio-signal processing,
bio-system modelling and development of wear-
able medical devices and body sensor network for
telemedicine and m-Health.
Dr. Poon was awarded the first prize of the IFMBE Outstanding Chinese Stu-
dent Award at the 27th Annual International Conference of IEEE Engineering
in Medicine and Biology Society in 2005, the First Prize of the National Chal-
lenge Cup, in 2005 and 2007, and the Outstanding Service Award at the Third
IEEE-EMBS International Summer School and Symposium on Medical De-
vices and Biosensors, in 2006. She currently serves as a Guest Editor of the
IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN BIOMEDICINE.
Paolo Bonato (S’93–M’95–SM’04) received the
M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the
Politecnico di Torino, Torino, Italy, in 1989, and the
Ph.D. degree in biomedical engineering from the
Universit di Roma “La Sapienza,” Rome, Italy, in
Since 2002 he has served as Director of the
Motion Analysis Laboratory at Spaulding Rehabil-
itation Hospital, Boston, MA, he has been Assistant
Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine
and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, and
Affiliated Faculty of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Tech-
nology. His research work includes wearable technology and its applications
in physical medicine and rehabilitation, electromyography, and biomechanics
of movement. He has developed intelligent signal processing tools for investi-
gating problems in neurophysiology and artificial intelligence systems for the
analysis of data recorded using wearable sensors.
Dr. Bonato is an IEEE EMBS AdCom member and President of the
International Society of Electrophysiology and Kinesiology. He is Founder
and Editor-in-Chief of Journal on NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
and Associate Editor of IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON NEURAL SYSTEMS AND
REHABILITATION ENGINEERING and IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INFORMATION
TECHNOLOGY IN BIOMEDICINE.