I admit it. I was drawn to advanced textiles because of “e-textiles.” That was the only kind of smart textile yet developed, at least that I knew about. I’ve since learned that there are many kinds of advanced textiles with “whiz-bang” appeal. In fact, just about every day I hear of a new technology, fiber or fabric; a new prototype; or a new application that uses a high-tech fabric in a completely novel way.
In the years since we launched this publication, we’ve covered a wonderful variety of developments in smart textiles, including:
- Clothes that can sense when another person is looking at the wearer and move in response
- Fabrics that can monitor vital signs and send the information virtually anywhere via a smartphone app. There are a growing variety of these products, reflecting consumer interest in self-health care.
- Clothes that regulate the wearer’s temperature
- Fabrics that change color to indicate the presence of infection in wound dressings
- A smart fabric that mimics bone tissue
- A smart fabric that imitates human muscle
- Self-powered textiles that could be made into smart clothes
And if I keep this up, this bulleted list will run into several pages! (Search “smart” on this site and you’ll see what I mean.)
One of the reasons the pace of innovation is so impressive is that innovators, including educational and research institutions, government agencies and industry, are banding together to collaborate for the benefit of all, and these joint efforts are having a meaningful impact. Examples from around the globe are noted in our feature, “Better together” by smart textiles expert Marie O’Mahony.
Honestly, the willingness of researchers to share their findings and work together amazes me – and advanced textiles are a stronger, more cohesive industry for it. Of course there are proprietary technologies and products, and the competition is not for the faint-hearted. But so many “firsts” are the result of collaboration.
Mahoney’s article is a great place to start with an overview and an update, but I hope you cruise through some of the other articles about smart fabric technologies and products that are available to you on this site. I think you’ll be dazzled, too.