A wireless body area sensor network based on stretchable passive tags


A body area sensor network (bodyNET) is a collection of networked sensors that can be used to monitor human physiological signals. For its application in next-generation personalized healthcare systems, seamless hybridization of stretchable on-skin sensors and rigid silicon readout circuits is required. Here, we report a bodyNET composed of chip-free and battery-free stretchable on-skin sensor tags that are wirelessly linked to flexible readout circuits attached to textiles. Our design offers a conformal skin-mimicking interface by removing all direct contacts between rigid components and the human body. Therefore, this design addresses the mechanical incompatibility issue between soft on-skin devices and rigid high-performance silicon electronics. Additionally, we introduce an unconventional radiofrequency identification technology where wireless sensors are deliberately detuned to increase the tolerance of strain-induced changes in electronic properties. Finally, we show that our soft bodyNET system can be used to simultaneously and continuously analyse a person’s pulse, breath and body movement.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: A bodyNET consisting of stretchable on-skin sensors and flexible silicon circuits on clothes.
Fig. 2: Design and experimental verification for the stretchable RFID system.
Fig. 3: Design of the stretchable sensor target and flexible initiator.
Fig. 4: A bodyNET to measure and display human body movement, pulse and breathing simultaneously.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


  1. 1.

    Yang, G. Z. Body Sensor Networks 2nd edn (Springer, 2014).

  2. 2.

    Hanson, M. A. et al. Body area sensor networks: challenges and opportunities. Computer 42, 58–65 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Chu, B., Burnett, W., Chung, J. W. & Bao, Z. Bring on the bodyNET. Nature 549, 328–330 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Gao, W. et al. Fully integrated wearable sensor arrays for multiplexed in situ perspiration analysis. Nature 529, 509–514 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Mukhopadhyay, S. C. Wearable sensors for human activity monitoring: a review. IEEE Sens. J. 15, 1321–1330 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Lee, H. et al. A graphene-based electrochemical device with thermoresponsive microneedles for diabetes monitoring and therapy. Nat. Nanotechnol. 11, 566–572 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Son, D. et al. Multifunctional wearable devices for diagnosis and therapy of movement disorders. Nat. Nanotechnol. 9, 397–404 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Yang, S. X. et al. ‘Cut-and-paste’ manufacture of multiparametric epidermal sensor systems. Adv. Mater. 27, 6423–6430 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Liu, Z. Y. et al. Thickness-gradient films for high gauge factor stretchable strain sensors. Adv. Mater. 27, 6230–6237 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Kim, J., Kumar, R., Bandodkar, A. J. & Wang, J. Advanced materials for printed wearable electrochemical devices: a review. Adv. Electron. Mater. 3, 1600260 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Liu, W., Song, M. S., Kong, B. & Cui, Y. Flexible and stretchable energy storage: recent advances and future perspectives. Adv. Mater. 29, 1603436 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Zamarayeva, A. M. et al. Flexible and stretchable power sources for wearable electronics. Sci. Adv. 3, e1602051 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Yi, F. et al. A highly shape-adaptive, stretchable design based on conductive liquid for energy harvesting and self-powered biomechanical monitoring. Sci. Adv. 2, e1501624 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Kaltenbrunner, M. et al. Ultrathin and lightweight organic solar cells with high flexibility. Nat. Commun. 3, 770 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Wang, S. H. et al. Skin electronics from scalable fabrication of an intrinsically stretchable transistor array. Nature 555, 83–88 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Andrews, J. B. et al. Patterned liquid metal contacts for printed carbon nanotube transistors. ACS Nano 12, 5482–5488 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Park, M. et al. Highly stretchable electric circuits from a composite material of silver nanoparticles and elastomeric fibres. Nat. Nanotechnol. 7, 803–809 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Larson, C. et al. Highly stretchable electroluminescent skin for optical signaling and tactile sensing. Science 351, 1071–1074 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Liang, J. J., Li, L., Niu, X. F., Yu, Z. B. & Pei, Q. B. Elastomeric polymer light-emitting devices and displays. Nat. Photon. 7, 817–824 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Keplinger, C. et al. Stretchable, transparent, ionic conductors. Science 341, 984–987 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Matsuhisa, N. et al. Printable elastic conductors by in situ formation of silver nanoparticles from silver flakes. Nat. Mater. 16, 834–840 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Trung, T. Q. & Lee, N. E. Flexible and stretchable physical sensor integrated platforms for wearable human-activity monitoring and personal healthcare. Adv. Mater. 28, 4338–4372 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Hartmann, F., Drack, M. & Kaltenbrunner, M. Meant to merge: fabrication of stretchy electronics for robotics. Sci. Robot. 3, eaat9091 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Sekitani, T. et al. Stretchable active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display using printable elastic conductors. Nat. Mater. 8, 494–499 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Kim, D. H. et al. Epidermal electronics. Science 333, 838–843 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Valentine, A. D. et al. Hybrid 3D printing of soft electronics. Adv. Mater. 29, 1703817 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    van den Brand, J. et al. Flexible and stretchable electronics for wearable health devices. Solid State Electron. 113, 116–120 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Xu, S. et al. Soft microfluidic assemblies of sensors, circuits, and radios for the skin. Science 344, 70–74 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Huang, Z. et al. Three-dimensional integrated stretchable electronics. Nat. Electron. 1, 473–480 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Graz, I. M., Cotton, D. P. J., Robinson, A. & Lacour, S. P. Silicone substrate with in situ strain relief for stretchable thin-film transistors. Appl. Phys. Lett. 98, 124101 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Vanfleteren, J. et al. Printed circuit board technology inspired stretchable circuits. MRS Bull. 37, 254–260 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Han, S. et al. Battery-free, wireless sensors for full-body pressure and temperature mapping. Sci. Transl. Med. 10, eaan4950 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Kim, J. et al. Battery-free, stretchable optoelectronic systems for wireless optical characterization of the skin. Sci. Adv. 2, e1600418 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Bandodkar, A. J. et al. Battery-free, skin-interfaced microfluidic/electronic systems for simultaneous electrochemical, colorimetric, and volumetric analysis of sweat. Sci. Adv. 5, eaav3294 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Kim, J. et al. Epidermal electronics with advanced capabilities in near-field communication. Small 11, 906–912 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Paret, D. Antenna Designs for NFC Devices (Wiley, 2016).

  37. 37.

    Huang, X. et al. Stretchable, wireless sensors and functional substrates for epidermal characterization of sweat. Small 10, 3083–3090 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Brink, M., Muller, C. H. & Schierz, C. Contact-free measurement of heart rate, respiration rate, and body movements during sleep. Behav. Res. Methods 38, 511–521 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Chen, W. X. et al. Unconstrained monitoring of long-term heart and breath rates during sleep. Physiol. Meas. 29, N1–N10 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Dong, J. G. The role of heart rate variability in sports physiology. Exp. Ther. Med. 11, 1531–1536 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Bunde, A. et al. Correlated and uncorrelated regions in heart-rate fluctuations during sleep. Phys. Rev. Lett. 85, 3736–3739 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Sallen, R. P. & Key, E. L. A practical method of designing RC active filters. IEEE Trans. Circuit Theory 2, 74–85 (1955).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by Samsung Electronics. X.C. acknowledges financial support from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) under its AME Programmatic Funding Scheme (project no. A18A1b0045). N.M. acknowledges funding support from an overseas fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). A.S.Y.P., Z.B. and N.M. acknowledge support from Stanford Precision Health and Integrated Diagnosis Center for seed funding support. The authors thank S. Taheri, W. Wang, J. Kim, B. Chu, Y. Zheng, J. Kang, Y. Kim, H.-C. Wu, J. Xu, T. Lei, Y. Liu, Z. Liu, G. Chen, Y. Jiang and B. Murmann for experimental assistance and insightful discussions. The authors also thank Dupont for providing the stretchable conductor inks.

Author information




S.N., N.M., W.B. and Z.B. generated the design concept. S.N. designed the overall system architecture and verified this architecture through circuit simulation. S.N. designed, fabricated and tested the flexible readout circuits. S.N. and N.M. fabricated the intrinsically stretchable sensor tags, developed the Bluetooth user interfaces and performed all the system measurements and daily physiological signal monitoring. L.B. helped in the design and fabrication of strain sensors. N.M., S.N., Y.Y. and J.L. helped to prepare the three-dimensional schematics and carried out device photography. S.W., J.W., Y.J. and X.Y. contributed to the material choice of stretchable tags. A.S.Y.P. commented on the RFID system design. S.N., N.M., Z.B. and J.B.-H.T. wrote the manuscript. Z.B. and X.C. supervised the project. All authors reviewed and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Xiaodong Chen or Zhenan Bao.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

A patent based on this research has been submitted.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–16, Supplementary Tables 1–2 and Supplementary Notes 1–2.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Movie 1

Display of pulse waves measured from our bodyNET by an oscilloscope.

Supplementary Movie 2

A demonstration of a bodyNET containing five sensing nodes, including one pulse node, one breathing node and three body movement nodes.

Supplementary Movie 3

A demonstration of a sensor node with a built-in seven-segment display to measure respiration.

Supplementary Movie 4

A demonstration of a sensor node located at the neck to measure head movement.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Niu, S., Matsuhisa, N., Beker, L. et al. A wireless body area sensor network based on stretchable passive tags. Nat Electron 2, 361–368 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-019-0286-2

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing