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Protecting innovations in smart fabrics

Features | April 27, 2020 | By:

IFAI’s Summit discusses new innovations, cybersecurity, industry engagement. 

by Janet Preus

The Smart Fabrics Summit was held virtually this year. Presented by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce in collaboration with the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), its speakers covered a range of topics particularly pertinent in the smart fabrics market area today. 

The first session, titled “Now Listen Carefully … It’s Time to Get Smart,” featured Chris Jorgensen, IPC, as moderator for panelists Stephanie Rodgers, Apex Mills; Chris Mitchell, IPC; and Jacqueline Campbell, CPSC [Consumer Products Safety Commission]. Campbell pointed out the importance of determining if your new smart product should be classified as medical or consumer. 

LOOMIA designs and manufactures soft circuit systems (e-textiles) that can be manufactured at scale. The company’s technology makes it possible to add a variety of functions to automotive interiors, medical and wellness wearables and outdoor products. Photo: Loomia.

“Design, marketing and other claims could put one product in either jurisdiction,” Campbell said. “Reach out about a new product.”

“Emerging hazards” was a theme in this discussion, which offered a checklist for “establishing a safety culture,” with these action points:

  1. Make sure you have everyone at the table – legal, technical, design.
  2. Design safety into the product and communicate the commitment to safety throughout the supply chain and to your consumers.
  3. Define how it should be used, and plan also for any unforeseeable uses beyond what the product was first designed for.
  4. Maintain quality standards throughout the product life cycle. This includes having a test program beyond minimum standards. There may be voluntary consensus standards, which are not formal. standards or tests, but they may be more stringent than is required. 
  5. Institute a proactive compliance program, keep up with standards and communicate them throughout your supply chain.

Cybersecurity for manufacturers

“The Importance of Cybersecurity for Manufacturers” was presented by David Stieren, division chief in the Programs and Partnerships Division at the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a non-regulatory agency in the U.S. Dept. of Commerce that provides technical assistance to manufacturers.

As an extension-based program, the MEP “has no center that is a super-center,” Stieren said. “We rely heavily on our partners and other centers. We target small to medium manufacturers that makes up about 99 percent of the demographic in the U.S.” 

Pat Toth, MEP cybersecurity services manager, spoke in more detail about cybersecurity as it relates to U.S. small businesses. “Small businesses and small manufacturers are particularly vulnerable, because they don’t have the means to prevent or detect a cyber attack,” Toth said. As such, “they may be seen as an entry point into another space.”

She recommended that manufacturers take a series of steps in order to establish and maintain security. “You need to formalize these policies and procedures and your employees need to know what they are.” Summarized, the steps are “protect, detect, respond and recover.” 

“Protect” means that filters, encryptions and systems are updated, that old equipment is disposed of properly, with all information removed from the technology. Detecting a problem could include noting an employee who changes passwords several times a day or employees who log on late at night, for example. 

A company’s procedures must include an organized response: who should be notified, what action steps should be taken, and taking advantage of cyber security insurance. Once an incident occurs, backups should be in place to be implemented. 

MEP offers a number of cybersecurity resources that may be accessed from its website. Most recently, there is a new program regarding security requirements when doing business with the DoD, which requires “reaching a certain level of maturity,” she said. (

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She may be reached at

Editor’s note: Additional articles based on information presented at this year’s Smart Fabrics Summit will appear on this site in the near future. 

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