Smart Sock©

Measuring emotions in disabled children

It is difficult for parents of disabled children to understand the emotions of their child. However, even in children who have difficulty expressing their emotions, the nervous system is activated. This activation can be measured with a bioresponse system, which gives information to parents about the amount of tension the child experiences. This way parents may better understand the signals from their child. Researchers at VU University Amsterdam and TU Eindhoven have successfully tested this principle in practice. In short: a bioresponse system enables measuring emotions of disabled children.

Measuring emotions in adults

We then made the start that this technology should also be able to work in measuring the emotions of ‘normal adults’ who, in specific situations, cannot get to their emotions properly or who cannot recognize them well in others. As a result, they are not communicating well about that now. This is seen as a less developed emotional intelligence. Especially in coaching and training settings, this technology can help the E.I. increase.

How does the Smart Sock© work exactly

Almost every emotion (also positive) is accompanied by a form of stress. The stress causes sweat glands to produce sweat that is pushed out through the skin through sweat pores.
Water conducts electricity very well. You may therefore imagine that during sweating a small change occurs in the low electrical voltage that is always present on the skin. The ‘Smart Sock©’ measures the degree of change in skin conduction and thus indirectly the change in the amount of tension that a person experiences.
Skin conduction is best measurable on hands and soles. Our Smart Sock© measures at the feet, providing the test person optimal freedom of movement.
Fabric electrodes (made of conductive textiles) are processed in the Smart Sock©. These feel like ordinary textiles. The Smart Sock© has built-in electric wires that connect the electrodes to a galvanic sensor. That sensor is strapped around the ankle and is connected with the PC or smartphone (wireless).

Measuring skin conduction is fun, but you only really get something if you can also see what is being measured. For this the Flower app© was created. The app shows the measured change in voltage (skin conduction) in the form of a flower. As the emotions become stronger, the skin conduction increases and the flower becomes larger. If the stress decreases, the flower becomes smaller.

Skin conduction not only says something about the strength of emotions, but also how strongly we respond to stimuli from our environment. For example, if someone mentions your name, you are triggered and your skin conduction changes. The flower shows this response to stimuli by drawing additional petals. The stronger the response to stimuli, the more visible the additional petals become.

Currently there is still a limitation: changes in the flower are caused by something that we like, but also by something that we find annoying. The Smart Sock© cannot yet reliably recognize whether the change in skin conduction is due to a positive or negative emotion. However, it is possible to make the test person, or his conversation partners, aware of changes in his emotions. That is an invitation to observe better and (potentially) do something with it. And that is exactly what E.I. is about!

Applications in coaching and training

The Smart Sock© is presently used during the training session ‘Building an Emotional Intelligent Team’ of the Supervisory Board Program of the Erasmus Governance Institute.
Furthermore, it is integrated in an E.I. coaching programme for a number of EY’s international consulting partners who – as a virtual team – are responsible for a global account.
Finally, Rabobank intends to use the Smart Sock© from February 2019.
In all applications the objective is to deepen the participants’ understanding of E.I. and to accelerate the improvement of E.I., in coaching, training and real-life settings.

Privacy aspects

The Smart Sock© is unable to record personal data. When used, a participant does not have to enter his own data. Complete anonymity is therefore guaranteed.


The Smart Sock© has been developed by Dr. Paula Sterkenburg (clinical psychologist) and Kyra Frederiks MSc (industrial designer) with a subsidy from the Bartiméus Foundation. They have published several scientific articles about it and Kyra Frederiks is currently writing a doctorate thesis.