Today, clothing should above all be fashionable and look good. However, smart clothes or e-textiles, as intelligent clothing is also known, could play an increasingly important role in the future.
Sweaters and jackets would then, for example, charge your smartphone as a power bank alternative or record your vital data.
Businesspally explains what smart clothes are, what they can do and what might be possible in the future.
What are smart clothes?
Wearables such as smartwatches, fitness trackers and sensors for better posture have long since arrived in everyday life.
It is high time that the clothes also become smart. So-called smart clothes are equipped with sewn-in sensors, for example, with which they can collect data and /or trigger actions.
Alternatively – or in addition – intelligent fibers and conductive yarns are used to manufacture smart trousers, sweaters and the like.
They integrate the digital functions directly into the fabric, which is why the smart clothing is also referred to as e-textiles.
In order for all of this to work, a wide variety of specialists work together in the production of smart clothes.
In addition to material researchers, fashion and textile designers, electrical engineers, computer scientists, interface designers, clothing technicians and experts in artificial intelligence are also involved in the development and improvement of intelligent clothing.
Smart clothes: From technology trend to everyday product
Smart clothes are still in their infancy. In the sports and medical sectors in particular, there is already intelligent clothing that monitors vital data such as heartbeat, breathing and stress levels or tracks the distance covered.
In some cases, the smartphone in the pocket can be operated via the sleeves of the jacket.
This is made possible with microscopic technology that is integrated into the fibers, according to Techpally.
This technology must now be further optimized so that it becomes more resistant to sweat and the wash cycle in the washing machine.
Once that’s done, the smart textiles should continue to conquer everyday life.
Which processes are used in the production of smart clothes?
All these professionals work to integrate technical components such as solar cells, batteries, touchscreen elements and more into the fabric in such a way that they can perform their functions as unobtrusively as possible and without disturbing.
Despite all these advanced technologies, conventional processes are mainly used in the manufacture of smart clothing.
The smart fibers are woven and knitted together with regular yarns. Well-known printing methods such as screen printing are used, for example, to print special pigments that can discolour and are used for textile displays.
Things get a bit more unusual when, for example, LEDs or vibration sensors are integrated into.
The individual parts are soldered onto textile conductor tracks.
In some cases, the conductive materials are etched to enable tiny microelectronic circuits.
Outlook: What is still to come in terms of intelligent clothing?
Intelligent clothing is currently being produced with a strong focus on fitness and health issues.
In the future, the focus is likely to shift more and more to everyday clothing.
In order to take this step, one hurdle must be overcome: smart clothes must withstand the effects of sweat and numerous washing cycles without damage over the long term.
Among other things, this would require the large-scale integration of waterproof and flexible solar cells and conductor elements.
It is likely that the entire technology in smart clothes is increasingly being incorporated directly into the fibers, Chaktty said.
Without adhesives and larger electronic components, the smart clothing remains more flexible – and therefore more comfortable, durable and washable.
Once these hurdles have been cleared, nothing stands in the way of intelligent textiles finding their way into every area of clothing: anything could come from smart bras to intelligent jackets.
With the further spread of smart clothes, manufacturers are in turn obliged to guarantee reliable data security over the long term.
After all, the health data collected by smart shirts and other items of clothing is highly sensitive – and should therefore not fall into the wrong hands.