INEGI is helping the footwear industry create the "footwear of the future"
Creating the "footwear of the future" is the main ambition of the "FAMEST - Footwear, Advanced Materials, Equipment and Software Technologies" project, promoted by the Cluster of Footwear, along with 32 partners, among companies and R&D institutions.
INEGI was tasked with developing new concepts and solutions of intelligent sensorized footwear. From this work emerged an innovative prototype, which evaluates plantar forces in real time, through a system of sensors integrated in the footwear and a smartphone app.
The technology "provides information about the pressures in specific places of each foot, it characterizes the users gait through the migration of the pressure centre, analyses the weight distribution between right and left foot, the foot temperature and moisture, and also has the ability to generate alerts when anomalous values are recorded”, explains Mário Vaz, Scientific Director of INEGI’s Optics and Experimental Mechanics area and responsible for the project.
There are various potential applications for this solution: ranging from personal use, to evaluate and correct daily habits; use in a professional context, for example for workers who spend a lot of time standing or who carry excessive loads; to clinical use.
As a possible tool to support diagnosis, Mário Vaz exemplifies its potential use regarding patients with diabetes, since the technology can help identify early peripheral neuropathy, a condition that affects gait.
In parallel, INEGI is also helping create sensors for biomechanical studies, and is responsible for the development of shear stress sensors and vamp pressure sensors. In this context INEGI developed a prototype which measures the pressure exerted by the footwear vamp on the foot, in order to evaluate the comfort of the shoe. This is an "innovative solution compared to those currently available in the market," says the project manager at INEGI.
Further steps contemplate the search for partnerships that may allow the development of applications for the devices, namely in the industry of medical, comfort and security footwear. Arcelina Marques, from Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto (ISEP), is also part of the project, which in 2008, together with Mário Vaz, registered the Portuguese patent for a portable sensor for measuring plantar forces in 3D.