The European market for smart fabrics and interactive textiles (SFIT) represents about 300 million euro today and is growing at a yearly rate of about 20%. These smart textiles are used in 'clothes that monitor your heart, measure the chemical composition of your body fluids or keep track of you and your local environment promise to revolutionize healthcare and emergency response.' This is why the European Union has been funding several technological projects under the SFIT cluster umbrella for a grand total of 66 million euro. But read more...
You can see above the roadmap of the Smart Fabrics and Interactive Textiles cluster (SFIT) and flexible wearable systems. (Credit: SFIT) In this background, the SFIT team says that there are basically two kinds of smart clothes.
- The smart clothes with sensors or devices in pocket or in fabric such as microcomputers, flexible TV screens, micro cellular phone, solar cells, energy recovery systems and flexible keyboard. These devices are used mainly for communication, displaying colors, pictures, indications of mood, messages. Other devices or sensors, e.g. GPS devices, fall detectors, data loggers, accelerometer and activity detectors, can be placed in special pockets or attached in the garment.
- The smart clothes with sensors close to or in contact with the skin, which are more used for body sensing and monitoring. The sensors are enclosed in the layers of fabric, or it is the fabric itself which is used as sensors. Such sensors can be piezo-resistive yarns, optic fibers, and colored multi layers.
Here is a list of some current SFIT projects which are co-financed by the European Commission. You'll find additional details here.
|Acronym ||Project name ||Start ||End ||Overall budget (M€)|
|MyHeart ||Fighting cardiovascular diseases by preventive lifestyle & early diagnosis ||Jan 2004 ||Sep 2007 ||33|
|BIOTEX ||Bio-Sensing Textiles to Support Health Management ||Sep 2005 ||Feb 2008 ||3.1|
|PROETEX ||Protection e-Textiles: MicroNanostructured fibre systems for Emergency-Disaster Wear ||Feb 2006 ||Jan 2010 ||12.8|
|STELLA ||Stretchable Electronics for Large Area Applications ||Feb 2006 ||Jan 2010 ||13.2|
|OFSETH ||Optical Fibre Sensors Embedded into technical Textile for Healthcare ||Mar 2006 ||Jun 2009 ||2.3|
|CONTEXT ||Contactless sensors for body monitoring integrated in textiles ||Jan 2006 ||Jun 2008 ||?|
All these projects have interesting applications, but I don't have enough space to give you full details about them. Let's look at the Ofseth project as an example. "Optical fibres also offer a promising avenue for new smart clothing because of their potential flexibility and their capacity to use light both as an information carrier and a sensor in itself. The team behind the Ofseth project (see our feature article) is aiming at applications in oximetry – a clever non-invasive way to measure the oxygen content of blood. In a hospital setting, a clip is attached to a patient’s finger measuring a ratio in the absorption of red and infrared light passed through a patient’s finger, which varies depending on the state of oxygen-rich, bright red blood and oxygen-poor, dark red blood. Ofseth researchers hope to replicate the measure in clothing (without the need for the finger clip typically used in hospitals) by placing optical fibres around the neck of a smart garment." You can readd additional details in a previous ICT Results article, "Optical sensors make MRI scans safer" (September 18, 2008).
The ICT Results article mentioned in the first paragraph of this post is just the first part of the three-part special series on smart textiles. The two other ones will soon appear officially on the ICT Results website -- but they're already available.
Sources: ICT Results, October 15, 2008; and various websites
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