Instrumentation providing accurate measurements of system variables is at the heart of each process or machine operation. Soft sensors, also known as Virtual Sensors, use system knowledge and available measurements in order to improve availability, reliability, accuracy and cost of measurements of the variables. This is possible due to the application of numerical models and state of the art digital filtering techniques.
Soft sensors are implemented:
- as software integrated into the current data acquisition and control systems using installed tools and computing power, or
- as an independent physical device.
Improved measurements as enabled by soft sensors allow for better quality of product or system performance through improved process control, operation and fault detection.
It is well known that sensor applications go much farther than just measuring your heart rate through the new Apple Watch. Sensor technology can be smoothly interlaced with our day-to-day operations giving us continuous inspection of our health and the way the world around can influence us.
As a radical departure from commonly used sensors aiming to establish the movements and typical signs of hard objects, soft sensors have been elaborated with the body and other peculiar characteristics inside.
This sort of sensors is pre-eminently used to measure human movement without any incursion in that movement. It can be outside the body, imperceptibly plugged into our clothes, set or built into something soft.
Use of Soft Sensors in Sports Industry
The application of soft sensors is remarkably popular in the sports space. The experienced athletes are most likely to have at their disposal a suite of wearable tech tools such as armbands and wristbands that measure distance, time and routes.
Companies such as Heddoko have already begun integrating StretchSense’s fabric stretch sensor into compression clothing to constantly trace body motion and lead athletes to optimum results. The sensors are flexible enough to be applied to any piece of clothing or footwear without constraining any part of the athlete’s natural movement and performance.
Use of Soft Sensors In Healthcare
The use of sensors to measure a range of health metrics like heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels and much more gives an opportunity for hospitals and medical institutions to take advantage of it. But still, the healthcare industry lacks a wide range of technologies that could provide with better results.
At MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), researchers have created a “7 finger robot” that enhances the grasping mechanism of the human hand by adding two extra “fingers” adjacent to the thumb and pinky finger. The grasping assistance of the robot has the potential to help elderly and disabled patients expand their independence capabilities over greater periods of time.
Use of Soft Sensors In Military
Instead of implants under the skin that turned Steve Austin into the $6 million fortune man, the Soft Exosuit fits the user’s body. It boosts a soldier’s ability to walk longer distances carrying heavy gear with less fatigue and improved resistance to injury.
Exosuit is a new class of applications for soft robotics. Soft, elastic sensors made of nylon, polyester, and spandex provide well-timed bursts of power intended to reduce the energy a soldier uses to walk. The suit mimics the action of the wearer’s leg muscles and tendons.
According to The Warrior Web, troops that patrol for long periods in rugged and rocky terrain are usually carrying 100 or more pounds of equipment. Musculoskeletal injuries can occur while bending, crawling or running, especially to ankles, knees and lumbar spine. The suit worn beneath the uniform promises to enhance strength and endurance of the wearer.
These examples are not even the half of the story. Entirely too long the attention has been focused on the reorientation of sensor technology tailored for rigid and precise machines and putting them on soft bodies. For all that, human beings are soft and squeamish – and hard sensors simply cannot answer for all.