Inspired by a toddler’s sleep issues, Jian Zhang, PhD, an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University, is pioneering a unique approach to studying sleep disorders by using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in clothes. 

Zhang, who has a background working on robotic systems and is interested in how RFID technology can improve our daily lives, thought there might be a way to combine artificial intelligence and clothing security tags to study sleep.

Zhang received a $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for the three-year project. The study will use RFID tags attached to the inside of clothing that can capture body motions. Each RFID tag has a unique identity that can recognize each of the body’s joints. Artificial intelligence will be used to sift through and analyze the data.

“Think of the tag you see on a T-shirt you purchase or a tag on your luggage when you fly,” says Zhang in a release. “It’s not intrusive, but it gives you information.”

Zhang will collaborate on the study with Auburn University professor Shiwen Mao, PhD, whose study has been funded with an additional $240,000 from the National Science Foundation.

As part of the study, Zhang says there are also plans to investigate how to help prevent health problems in the elderly. The research pertains, in particular, to elders at high risk of falling by detecting abnormal body movements.

“We aren’t collecting any private information,” Zhang says in the release. “The person’s age or gender isn’t known. But it will collect information about your joints. Plus, the tags allow us to capture enough information without disrupting the sleep. You can sleep normally.”

Zhang’s research will be to gather the data on joint movements for later research on the connection between disease in the body.

“We hope the success of this project can enable us to develop a new tool for sleep disease diagnosis and monitoring persons needing preventative care,” Zhang says in the release. “And it was all inspired by my friend and his son.”

Photo caption: Jian Zhang

Photo credit: Kennesaw State University