Seatbelt-Embroidered Metamaterials for In-Vehicle Vital Sign Monitoring

Continuous in-vehicle physiological monitoring can improve safety through early detection of driver fatigue and drowsiness. However, developing a system capable of effective and robust physiological monitoring in practical driving scenarios is challenging due to the noisy vehicular environment in which the sensor is exposed to engine vibrations, unpredictable road conditions and random body motions. In this work, we introduce a seatbelt-integrated metamaterial sensor for unobtrusive and continuous in-vehicle respiration and heartbeat monitoring. The metamaterial sensor is fabricated by digital embroidery of conductive threads and can continuously monitor respiration and heartbeat in a contactless manner. Our sensor supports confined microwave surface waves that are modulated by subtle local physiological motions, which are sensitively transduced into changes in the phase of the transmitted signal. We developed an algorithm based on variational mode decomposition (VMD) for noise-robust extraction of respiration and heart rate. We experimentally demonstrate the embroidered metamaterial in real-life driving scenarios and show accurate heartbeat detection with a median inter-beat interval (IBI) detection error of 23.5 ms during driving. Our results highlight the potential of embroidered metamaterial sensors in driver physiological monitoring applications, especially for the unobtrusive detection of fatigue and drowsiness.