The SentiSock, manufactured by Metafas on behalf of healthcare technology company Mentech, helps with early stress recognition in the disability and elderly care sector. This advanced sock is designed to detect stress early by measuring physiological parameters, such as skin conductance, heart rate and movement. In combination with artificial intelligence, the SentiSock provides caregivers with a valuable tool to better understand and manage otherwise unintelligible behaviour in patients.
The SentiSock offers numerous advantages over traditional methods, such as electronic patches or wristbands. The sock can be easily applied during the dressing process and is well accepted by this vulnerable group. Moreover, the sock is washable and reusable, making it an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to disposable electrodes.
Metafas' manufacturing expertise, in collaboration with Mentech's technological innovation, contributed to the SentiSock's success. "This collaboration illustrates how technology and care can come together to have a positive impact on the lives of both patients and caregivers," said Luc van Neer, CEO of Metafas.
Mentech involved Metafas in the project at an early stage because of the company's expertise in the development and production of printed electronics. This led to a true co-development project, which resulted in a short lead time with a highly innovative character.
"In the development and production of the socks, the choice of material, a special thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), was crucial," explains Van Neer. “This material provides optimal stretch and shrinkage, and it has good adhesion properties in combination with our inks. On the TPU layer, the functional layers are built up subsequently by screen printing with silver, carbon and dielectric inks. These are specially developed for good durability and crease resistance, and good adhesion to the TPU substrate. A clever meandering design of the sensor and the build-up of the aforementioned inks in several layers makes the sock robust enough for normal use. This prevents overstretching of the ink and therefore potentially reduced conductivity, thereby improving the lifetime of the sock."
"Metafas' expertise was an important factor in our decision to work with them, but the constructive cooperation was also crucial, adds Reon Smits, CTO of Mentech. "From the start, they were proactive in assisting us with the design of the electrode and technical solutions to make the sock as wearable as possible, even before concrete agreements had been made on production quantities and costs. This enabled us to optimise the SentiSock at an early stage and in close collaboration, which allowed us to bring a product to market that works for both patients and caregivers."
He continues, "Originally, we had considered a standard printed medical electrode patch on the foot for stress detection, but this proved to be too invasive for our target group. In addition, these patches are not sustainable, as they are discarded after single use. Therefore, we opted for a 'wearable' solution, which eventually led to the development of the SentiSock. Socks offer a direct and reliable connection to the sole of the foot, are a familiar garment for everyone and, of course, are also washable and reusable."
SentiSocks are currently being used in inpatient care homes in the Netherlands, Belgium and several other European countries. The socks thus contribute to enhancing the quality of life of vulnerable people and improving the working conditions of caregivers by providing valuable tools to better respond to poorly understood behaviour. Metafas, meanwhile, is working on further optimising its production process in order to scale up quickly.