Who needs a smartwatch? This shirt monitors breathing and heart rate

Sensors that monitor wellness are cropping up in bracelets, phones, socks and evenĀ inside the human body. But startup OMsignal noticed they were missing from one particularly ubiquitous possession: the shirt. Later this year, they’ll launch a compression shirt capable of reading a person’s heart rate, breathing levels and movement.
The shirt meant to be worn under everyday clothes or on its own at the gym. The data it collects is sent to a a computer or smartphone app where the user can view instant and long-term exertion, stress and even mood. The app can share data with loved ones, including sending an alert when it detects high stress or a potentially dangerous situation.
OMsignal shirt and software
The company’s major breakthrough was figuring out how to weave the sensors into the shirt during the manufacturing process. They are placed just below the chest to best collect heart and breathing data. Redmond, Wash., startup Heapslylon revealed socks that have sensors woven in earlier this year, but they are only able to sense pressure.
“They’re not clipped or glued,” OMsignal marketing director Catherine Cattoen said. “That makes it comfortable to wear day in and day out for your daily activities.”
They hope to launch their compression shirt by the end of the year. OMsignal has also worked on a sensor-studded bra, but it didn’t perform as well in tests.
OMsignal shirt
The shirt and sensors are washable, but there is a small box that must be removed before any water exposure. The box contains the electronic components that store data and communicate with the user’s smartphone. It can be switched between OMsignal shirts if the wearer does not want to wash one shirt everyday.
OMsignal spent the first half of 2013 testing the shirt. Now, they are working with developers interested in building new applications for it.
OMsignal, which is based out of Montreal, was founded last year by mobile and health entrepreneur Frederic Chanay and tech entrepreneur Stephane Marceau. Several years ago, they read a book about data-gathering clothing and became interested in the idea of a piece of clothing that could detect breathing patterns. With the precision of the shirt they developed, it could be connected to an app that alerts the wearer to poor breathing and then coaches them through a breathing exercise.
“It’s more precise than bracelets, more complete than a pedometer,” Cattoen said. “We’re very excited about the product and the future it holds.”
This story was updated at 8:30 p.m. to clarify that OMsignal is based in Montreal, not Toronto.