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No shortcuts

July 15th, 2019 / By: / My Take

by Janet Preus

“If you’re going to do it, do it right.” We’ve all heard that saying, and we probably all agree with it, too. But if you’re going to create something that’s never existed before, how do you know that you’re doing it right? 

I’m not talking about a new technology, a new material or a new product. That’s generally something tangible, used in a way that offers its own sort of clarity: a shirt that monitors your heart rate as you’re exercising, a tent that gathers solar energy to power lights inside it, a conductive fiber that can be knitted into a textile. That, we get. All of these products have to be safe (that’s number one, isn’t it?), and do whatever it is they’re designed to do: monitor your heart rate accurately, power the lights in the tent, or be sewn into e-textile products as a manufacturer wishes. 

I’m talking about the industry generated and supported standardsby which the success (or failure) of these functionalities are measured. But you all know about standards. If you make anything having to do with textiles, you deal with them all the time. But when there is something truly new—such as e-textiles—there is no standard, much less the dozens of standards that could be required, given the complexities of designing, manufacturing and using an e-textile. There are standards for parts of these products (and many other smart products), but only some can be applied, given the fact that there has never been a textile like this. Not ever. 

Somebody has to decide what the standards should be, and that “somebody” is you—the researchers, designers, technologists, textile manufacturers, end product manufacturers, entrepreneurs and consumer-facing brands. That is exactly what’s going on right now. But it is truly just beginning, and there’s plenty of room for more of you to participate. It needs to involve everyone who is, or could be, invested in e-textile products.

There are no shortcuts to getting this important work done. IPC and others supporting this coordinated effort, are inviting and involving anyone who wants to participate, learn, or just comment. That takes time and patience, but it’s doing it the right way. If you want to share your thoughts, one way you can do that is to respond to a survey available here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/wearables

Two features this month will focus on up-to-date coverage of this topic, including new information about coordinated efforts between the U.S. and Europe. Look for that article by Chris Jorgensen, director, technology transfer, IPC, later in the month. My article, “Progress in e-textile standards,” will give you an overview, as well as what’s anticipated in the near future.

More is offered at IFAI Expo this year in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 1–4, especially at the Advanced Textiles Conference Oct. 1, and Jorgensen will be speaking at a “Fireside” presentation during Expo. This really is the best way to learn a lot fast, and to meet the people likely to be most helpful to you. I wouldn’t miss it!