Need for an Intelligent Wearable Motherboard: It is hard to place a price on human life. Unfortunately, casualties are associated with combat and sometimes are inevitable. Since medical resources are limited in a combat scenario, there is a critical need to make optimum use of the available resources to minimize such casualties. Therefore, any effort to minimize the loss of human life has a value that is priceless. In a significant departure from the past, the loss of even a single soldier in a war can alter the nation’s engagement strategy making it all the more important to save lives.

Similarly, on the civilian side, the population is aging and the cost of healthcare delivery is expected to increase at a rate faster than it is today. With the decreasing number of doctors in rural areas, the doctor/patient ratio is, in certain instances, reaching unacceptable levels for ensuring a basic sense of comfort for people living in such areas. Patients discharged after major surgeries (e.g., heart bypass) typically experience a loss of sense of security when they leave the hospital because they feel "cut off" from the continuous watch and care they received in the hospital. This degree of uncertainty can greatly influence their post-operative recovery. Therefore, there is a need to continuously monitor such patients (at home) and give them the added peace of mind so that the positive psychological impact will speed up the recovery process. Mentally ill patients (e.g., those suffering from manic depression) need to be monitored on a regular basis to gain a better understanding of the relationship between their vital signs and their behavioral patterns so that their treatments (e.g., medication) can be suitably modified. Such medical monitoring of individuals is critical for the successful practice of telemedicine that is becoming economically viable in the context of advancements in computing and telecommunications. Likewise, continuous monitoring of astronauts in space, of athletes during practice sessions and in competition, of law enforcement personnel and combat soldiers in the line of duty are all extremely important. Moreover, with the extensive proliferation of inexpensive computing hardware and software and the emergence of the Internet, there are new avenues for personalizing information processing.

In other words, there is a need for an effective and mobile information infrastructure that can be tailored to the individual's requirements to take advantage of the advancements in telemedicine and information processing. Just as special purpose chips and processors can be plugged into a computer motherboard to obtain the required information processing capability, there is a need for an intelligent garment into which the wearer can "plug in" the desired sensors and devices. In short, there is a need for a "Wearable Motherboard" that can fulfill the twin roles of being (i) a flexible information infrastructure; and (ii) a system for monitoring the vital signs of individuals (and pets too!). Indeed, the overall objective of the research has been to design and develop such an intelligent garment.


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