Smart jacket handles mobile calls and MP3s

Wearable computing is powering ahead, according to Infineon, which has made another foray into intelligent textiles

Semiconductor maker Infineon continued its adventures in wearable computing on Monday by showing off a men's jacket that includes a built-in MP3 player and can link up with a mobile phone over Bluetooth.

The article was developed in partnership with Rosner, a German clothing manufacturer, and is called the mp3blue. It contains an 'electronic module' which includes the MP3 player, 128MB of memory, a rechargeable battery and a Bluetooth transmitter that lets the user connect to their mobile.

Fibres that conduct electrical signals have been sown into the jacket. These fibres link the module to headphones and a microphone embedded in the collar, and to a textile keyboard sewn into the left sleeve.

If the wearer is listening to the MP3 player when their mobile receives a call, the music will be automatically paused and the call routed through the headphones.

According to Infineon, the mp3blue is the world's first "lifestyle jacket", and similar items of clothing are set to follow.

"We are looking forward to developing further clothes with integrated electronic solutions," said Dieter May, who is responsible for strategy and emerging business at Infineon.

At 128MB, the mp3blue will store only a fraction of the number of songs that can be accommodated on one of Apple's iPods, for example. Although the module can be removed from the jacket when it is being cleaned, it appears that it cannot be used as a stand-alone MP3 player, as it can only be controlled by the buttons on the keyboard.

Infineon recently helped to create a snowboarding jacket that, like the mp3blue, included an MP3 player and mobile phone support. It is expected to go on sale later this year.

The company is also developing a smart fabric that will turn floors, walls and even building columns into part of a building's security. The weave of conductive fibre studded with sensor chips and LEDs could even be able to guide visitors around a building.

Smart clothing may seem gimmicky today, but it may eventually be a significant part of the technology market. Infineon estimates that by 2007 the intelligent textiles market will have a global turnover of over €1bn.

The Rosner mp3blue.

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