Current hygiene regulations require restaurant operators to ensure sufficient distance between guests. Intelligent tablecloths could soon help with this often-complicated seating management. In addition, with the help of sensor technology, restaurant visitors could place their orders directly into the fabric without contact with a server.
The German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf (DITF) are conducting research on tablecloths that are not only smart, but also feel like textiles despite having built-in sensors. Although digitalization is advancing, comparatively few intelligent textiles are being used. This is not only due to the current high cost of these products, but also because they often do not have properties familiar in fabrics, such as flexibility, a pleasant “hand” and easy laundering.
Therefore, the DITF are developing a textile sensor technology, as part of a research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, that will be separated from both the energy supply and the data processing. The measured values will be transmitted wirelessly.
The tablecloths interact with the electronics integrated in the table. Central functions include the detection of seat occupancy, ordering from a menu, and an event and game application. For example, interactive games could be offered as a product advertising campaign, whereby the textile is given a buzzer function, for example. Specially developed wrapping yarns are used for this purpose.
The first functional models have been created with embroidery technology, which uses electronics to detect and show approximation and touch. To ensure that the research results can be transferred to the industry on a production scale, the research team is investigating various influencing variables, such as the sensor yarn structure or the embroidery pattern. Future projects for the technology could include patterns that measure illuminance could control the blinds in the smart home and thus make the seating area glare-free.
The research project, “Wireless transmission of measured values via winding yarns integrated into textile surfaces for short distances,” is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology within the framework of the program for the promotion of joint industrial research (IGF).