History of Fabrics
Smart Fabric Projects
Smart Textile Projects
Included in our product is a "smart suit" with various types of sensors to monitor
the vital signs of the individual wearer as well as sensors to report environmental
Sensors currently available in smart clothes include measurements of respiration,
heart rate, blood pressure, posture, internal temperature as well as skin temperature.
Current sensors to monitor external conditions include temperature, chemical gases,
radiation, and humidity. Most also include a GPS device to provide the wearer's
Below are several examples of existing smart fabric projects that are under development
in both the commercial sector and at university research facilities.
- SFIT Cluster
The SFIT Cluster (Smart
Fabrics and Interactive Textiles) is a European Union consortium
projects that deal with smart, flexible garments to monitor health, and provide protection
and disaster management.
Image courtesy of SFIT
- ProeTEX - Fires
An Italian technology firm called ProeTEX is currently working with e-textiles. This company is developing
"smart wearables" to protect emergency personnel, namely firefighters. The first
prototype uniform includes an inner and an outer layer that cooperates to relay
information to both the wearer and base crews waiting outside.
The inner garment
contains sensors that monitor vital signs (breathing, heart rate, core temperature).
When someone wearing the uniform’s inner layer inhales (making their chest expand),
pressure on the fabric increases. When the wearer exhales (making their chest compress),
pressure on the fabric decreases. Sensors monitor the rhythm of increasing and decreasing
pressure to relay breathing patterns.
The outer garment
houses external sensors for monitoring outside temperature and noxious fumes. It
also holds an interconnection harness that links the sensors to alarms and Bluetooth communications
all of which are housed in the "electronics
box." The interconnection harness connects to a wearable (flexible) battery,
a standard GPS, and an antenna that transmits information to base crews.
ProeTEX plans to incorporate additional features in future prototypes. Developers
hope to include monitors for pose and activity as well as sensors that detect sweat,
dehydration, electrolyte levels, and stress. New sources of energy such as photovoltaic
(solar) and thermoelectric (heat) will be used to improve longevity and storage
of power. ProeTEX also plans to incorporate smart firefighter boots that are equipped
with additional gas sensors and a back up battery.
Additional ProeTEX products include a "civilian
band" with abilities similar to the firefighter’s inner garment. The civilian
band can be easily strapped around an injured civilian's chest to begin monitoring
vital signs until medical personnel arrive.
- VivoResponder or LifeShirt
VivoMetrics sells an on-the-shelf product called the LifeShirt. Originally introduced as the
VivoResponder, it provides a means to remotely monitor vital signs. The VivoResponder housed
sensors that monitored respiration, heart rate, activity, posture, and skin temperature.
This product was portable and had a comfortable chest strap. It was designed for "first
responders such as firefighters, police, industrial clean-up workers, hazmat workers
or others who work under dangerous conditions and could benefit from utilizing an
integrated monitoring system." With the Vivo Responder came a computer software
program called Vivo Command. This software can monitor up to 24 different units,
with one person monitoring them from afar.
This Vivo Command system had 5 programmable tolerances that could be set for each individual
person. With these tolerances, the high and low thresholds for each category could be set uniquely for each person. When these
thresholds were passed, bells, whistles, and blinking lights went off to warn the
person who was monitoring the strap that something was wrong.
- MIT's fabric patches
In 2004, MIT developed
waterproof computer patches. These patches contain Bluetooth, microphones,
sensors, and mini-PC motherboards which help prevent soiling and staining. A handbag
computerized fabric patches contains micro-processors, memory and either
radio tranceivers, sensors, microphones, batteries, or displays. They may take the
shape of squares and triangles and are coated with a hard transparent resin making
them waterproof. Padding, along with the chosen fabric, incapsulates the electronics
to allow Velcro
to unite all of the patches. Wires from the circuit board are attached to
silver-coated contacts in the Velcro; allowing
data and power to flow from one module to the next. The patches would give
users the capability to swap modules and create new functionality, for example,
a voice synthesizer. MIT is looking to expand the funtions to include internet access
and instant weather reports
- Sensatex Smart shirt
Sensatex, Inc. is a life science
technology company focused on Smart Textile Systems. The
Sensatex SmartShirt is Sensatex's first
patented project and is currently under field trials as of May 1, 2007. This shirt’s
main purpose is to monitor a person's physiological information and movements (heart
rate, respiration, and other vital signs). The data is sent via satellite so that
an information center can monitor the wearer. Needed emergency services can be contacted
to reach the SmartShirt wearer quickly. The wireless technology used for the "Smart
Shirt" system using Bluetooth and WLAN. This technology in not as reliable but has
great promise for monitoring.
- Pro-Active Helmet
In an attempt to make a safer, more comfortable, and more "fashionable" safety helmet,
Tore Christian Bjørsvik Storholmen of
SINTEF, Scandinavia's largest research organization, created the "Pro Active Helmet."
This helmet contains multiple features that expand the traditional helmet's protect-ability
and wear-ability. An inside layer is made of stretchable, comfortable smart fabric
that immediately toughens by tightening its interlocking threads to form a hard,
protective shock absorber when struck. Covering the smart fabric layer is the traditional
hard hat plastic material, shaped to resemble a baseball cap. Storholmen believes
that construction workers will be more likely to wear their helmet if it feels more
comfortable and looks more fashionable.
In addition to its protective and visual features, the Pro Active Helmet includes
ear protection that is more comfortable that the standard ear muffs or plugs
for construction workers. A conductive loop housed within the ear piece, allows
for wireless communication between workers as well as the ability to charge other
instruments, such as intercom or gas detectors attached to the helmet. It even features
the ability to connect to Bluetooth allowing the wearer to answer a phone call without
removing his protective wear.
The Bio-Suit is expected to be the next generation space suit. It is currently being
researched and developed at MIT's Man
Vehicle Lab. The suit would serve as a 'second
skin' allowing easy movement as well as life support. This suit was designed
by uniting wearable technologies, information systems, evolutionary space systems
design, and biomedical breakthroughs in skin replacement and materials. The suit's
life support system provides mechanical pressure to the body through a tight suit.
The technology is embedded into the suits layers with a possibly recyclable outer
layer. The suit has a flexible design method in order to allow changes in the hardware
and software make up of the suit. The suit will be able to repair itself without
loss of abilities.
designs had joints and bearings which resulted in bulkiness and a lack of flexibility.
Although the exact devices and technology that will be included in the
BioSuit are uncertain, there are several possibilities being explored to solve current
problems. These include electric alloy mesh, a thermal gel suit, an electric gel suit, a stretch
alloy band suit, and an electric alloy zipper or remote zipper suit. Also under investigation
as possible methods of thermal control are absorption packs, venting to the atmosphere,
and perspiration tubes.
The BioSuit was
inspired by the giraffe's tight skin which regulates blood pressure.
The BioSuit performs a similar function through counter pressure and is expected
to be finished within 10 years. It is currently being worked on by people at MIT
and can already offer 25 to 30 kilopascals of pressure to the legs. The suit is
said to be safer then the old space suits. Until the suit can be used on the next mission to Mars it could be used in physical