Sweanty’s wearable patch for athletes tracks salt loss to help them hydrate

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Wearable devices today come in an increasing range of shapes, form factors, and appearances as health and fitness tracking proliferates. Here at 4YFN at the MWC show, we spotted a new one: an adhesive patch to track athletes’ sweat to monitor salt loss and help them adapt their rehydration strategy. The Spanish startup behind these (currently) single-use wearables is called Sweetie (yes, that’s not a typo).

“We develop personalized hydration plans for athletes – and these plans are based on the analysis of their sweat,” said co-CEO and founder Laura Ortrega Tañá, explaining that the system is designed to ensure that athletes rehydrate with the right amount of electrolytes (or isotonic drinks) after each workout. Analysis of the patch wearers’ “sweat profile” is sent to a companion app where they access their personalized hydration plan.

This means that the athlete must use a new patch every time they train. Or at least check in at key times during their training season (like when temperatures change). So the cost of monitoring will definitely add up. But professional athletes whose daily work pushes them to surpass themselves are used to investing in their own performance.

Proper hydration can improve athletes’ performance by helping to maintain energy levels and endurance, as well as reducing the risk of cramps, according to Ortrega Tañá. It can also help regulate temperature.

SWEANTY’s wearables are not yet available for athletes to purchase, but the startup plans to launch them in Spain by the end of April. Pricing is also not confirmed, but she suggests it will be in the region of €120 for a box of three patches (plus three months of access to the subscription tracking service).

The version of the wearable shown here at MWC is designed to be worn on the skin at the base of the back. Trail runners are one of the startup’s first priorities, but the patch could work for all kinds of endurance and performance sports. (An exception is swimmers or other sports where the user is submerged in water; they will need to stick to manual methods for tracking salt loss, such as weighing themselves before and after their session.)

The team is also working on an iteration of the fix that will allow electronic components to be retained after each use, with only part of the device needing to be discarded after use.

The sweat analysis technology was developed and patented during Ortrega Tañá’s doctorate. Here she highlights a method of measuring salt on paper as a particular novelty – with the device essentially being awakened when it comes into contact with the user’s sweat.

“The type of measurement we do uses a paper-based method. We use a battery with two electrodes on a paper inside and when the paper is completely dry it doesn’t work. But when it absorbs sweat, it gives potency directly related to the amount of salts involved,” she told TechCrunch.

Although athletes are a fairly small addressable market, Ortrega Tañá suggested the technology could have broader applications, such as for consumers who are fitness-conscious and active enough to want to monitor their hydration. Or for use cases related to worker safety, for example for people who work in very hot conditions, such as construction workers or firefighters, where there may be a health risk at work. “The only requirement we need is that they sweat,” she added.

Alerting caregivers to the risk of dehydration in older adults who may not be drinking enough is another potential use case she mentioned. However, in this scenario, she said the wearable would need to be redesigned so that it can actively stimulate the user’s sweat reflex so it can monitor salt loss.

Learn more about MWC 2024 on TechCrunch

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