Canadian company to launch fitness tracking shirt into space

A Montreal-based tech company is gearing up to take wearable fitness technology out of the gym and into orbit by outfitting Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques with an advanced bio-monitoring system for his upcoming six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

What sort of system you may ask? Well, it’s a gym shirt. Not just any gym shirt to be fair. Carré Technologies’ Astroskin system will continuously record a bevy of Saint-Jacques vital signs during his 2018-2019 mission, including his heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, skin temperature, physical activity and blood oxygen levels.

This stream of real-time data will help scientists back on Earth understand how the harsh environment of space takes its toll on astronauts’ bodies.

Astro shirt
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques tests the Astroskin shirt (Source: Canadian Space Agency)

Astroskin looks like a standard polyester workout shirt. Underneath the fabric, two cardiac electrodes crossing the chest and waist analyze vital signs. The data gathered by Astroskin will be collected and analyzed by the ISS communications system.

The company inked a $2.4-million-dollar deal with the Canada Space Agency (CSA) in October to continue advancing technology on Astroskin. The researchers behind the project say it marks a major step forward in remote medical monitoring.

“In the future, we hope that these shirts will be used to manage chronic conditions for cardiac patients, patients with repertory diseases, and other chronic conditions,” Carré Technologies CEO and co-founder Pierre-Alexandre Fournier told CTV Montreal.

The space initiative has brought together several Canadian tech firms to get the high-tech shirt off the ground. CALM Technologies, of Kingston, Ont., will provide engineering support to send Astroskin to space. Montreal-based Xiphos Technologies has developed a processor card that will transmit data from the ISS to scientists on Earth.

“One day, thousands of space travelers bound for Mars will need simple reliable medical systems to ensure their health,” said Fournier at the project’s announcement in October. “Deploying our wearable sensors and software to the ISS is significant as this represents the ultimate remote patient monitoring scenario.”

Fournier says elite athletes make up most his customers so far. An earth-bound version that connects to your Android or iOS device called Hexoskin retails for $449.99.

Carré Technologies’ collaboration with CSA has received high praise from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains and Transport Minister Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space.

“Astroskin is a perfect example of how our government works with small, innovative, Canadian businesses on space technologies that lead to commercial versions for use by Canadians,” said Garneau in an October release.

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Stephane Giroux

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