Press release

Revolutionary smart sensor technology is latest patent milestone

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new invention, which will be patent number 2,500,000 and published today, is set to revolutionise the UK healthcare industry

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The milestone patent and invention, has been submitted by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) who have developed new electromagnetic wave sensors that can be woven into any garment as a way to continually monitor a patient’s vital signs.

The exciting smart sensor technology allows you to monitor continually patients’ vital signs, such as their heart rate, blood oxygen levels and temperature without having to wire them up to a machine.

Invisible, and undetectable to the wearer, these non-invasive sensors are sensitive enough to pick up a wide range of vital signs and can transmit these readings in real time to devices located many metres away.

Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger said:

This new technology demonstrates the importance of collaboration, and the wealth of knowledge transfer taking place, between our world class Universities and UK companies.

The history of patents is a great way to understand the UK’s inventive spirit and how our industry has developed. From the introduction of the steam locomotive in the 1800s, to TV in the early 1900s, new ideas have changed the way we go about our daily lives and patents provide a great history of our entrepreneurial spirit and industrial development.

As Minister for Intellectual Property, I am pleased to mark this momentous occasion today and look forward to seeing some of the other inventions from the 22,000 patent applications the IPO review and process every year.

Speaking about his invention, Liverpool John Moores University Professor Ahmed Al-Shamma’a said:

While we are still in the early stages of development, the range of potential applications for this wearable sensor technology is immense, not just in the health care sector but also in sporting and military applications.

The traditional hospital identity bracelet, for example, could eventually be adapted to include this sensor technology. Garments could also be developed for people with dementia living in the community, giving care workers a non-invasive way of monitoring their health and wellbeing.

Ultimately, whether worn in the hospital or at home, this technology could represent significant potential cost saving advantages for the NHS and could also improve patient care.

The first recorded patent for an industrial invention was granted in 1421 in Florence to the architect and engineer Filippo Brunelleschi. The patent gave him a three-year monopoly on the manufacture of a barge with hoisting gear used to transport marble.

Other notable UK patents throughout history have included:

  • in 1802 Richard Trevethick and Andrew Vivian invented the steam locomotive
  • in 1818 Jeremiah Chubb invented Chubb lock
  • in 1847 London confectioner Tom Smith invented Christmas Crackers
  • in 1775, Richard Arkwright took out his patent for a new carding engine which, combined with water power and semi-skilled labour, saw the mass production of yarn and the creation of the first ’production line’ more than 100 years before Henry Ford and his ‘Model T’ assembly line.
  • the turn of the 20th century saw the granting of a number of patents for well-known and much loved devices such as the ‘little nipper’ (13277/1899) or flatbed mousetrap in 1900 and Meccano (587/1901) in 1901.
  • Captain Stephen Coxon’s ‘improved Entrenching Tool’ a type of shovel (5956/1915) that played a vital and often life saving role in the trenches of the First World War.
  • in 1924 with as ‘a system of transmitting views, portraits and scenes by telegraphy or wireless telegraphy.’ (GB222604). This was the birth of the television

The Intellectual Property Office carries out extensive novelty and inventiveness searches on more than 22,000 applications a year.

Notes to editors:

  1. Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and is responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.

  2. IPO’s role is to help manage an IP system that encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of consumers and users, promotes strong and competitive markets and is the foundation of the knowledge-based economy.

  3. A short history of patents can be found at www.ipo.gov.uk. It details the beginnings of the UK’s patent system and highlights some notable, important and quirky inventions through the centuries.

  4. IPO operates in a national and an international environment and its work is governed by national and international law, including various international treaties relating to Intellectual Property (IP) to which the United Kingdom is a party.

  5. For media enquiries contact Jayne Scott on 020 7215 5080. For emergency media calls out-of-hours please contact the duty press officer at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 020 7215 3505.

  6. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Published 16 September 2013