When it comes to the continuous monitoring of people's vital signs, the rigid electrodes that are typically adhered to the skin can be uncomfortable, awkward, and a cause of skin irritation. That's where a new soft, flexible, wireless monitor is designed to come in.

Developed by a team at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the device has a medical-grade non-allergenic elastomer film base, into which is integrated flexible copper-mesh circuitry and small rigid chips – these are connected to three flexible gold electrodes. Heart rate, respiration and motion data is monitored and transmitted up to 15 meters (49 ft), where it's recorded and displayed on a smartphone or tablet.

This means that users can go about their daily activities (including showering) while wearing the waterproof monitor for up to two weeks, as opposed to being temporarily hard-wired with conventional electrodes in a clinical setting. Not only does this free them up, but it also allows data to be gathered over a relatively long period, in which they're doing the things they would normally do. Additionally, unlike the case with rigid electrodes, body motion doesn't interfere with the skin-conforming flexible electrodes' ability to accurately gather data – and no contact gel is required.

The current version of the device has a diameter of three inches (76 mm), although the commercial model should be half that size. That final version may also forgo the present one's rechargeable battery, instead utilizing an external radio-frequency charging system. It might also be capable of measuring other vital signs, including body temperature, blood oxygen and blood pressure.

And while it could be utilized on just about anyone, it may prove particularly useful on squirmy, active children.

"The generation of continuous data from the respiratory and cardiovascular systems could allow for the application of advanced diagnostics to detect changes in clinical status, response to therapies and implementation of early intervention," says Georgia Tech pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kevin Maher. "A device to literally follow every breath a child takes could allow for early recognition and intervention prior to a more severe presentation of a disease."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Advanced Science.