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    Smart Textiles: Smart clothes and wearable technology basics

    The emergence of wearable computing:

    At smart textiles, the wearables group was certain that computer devices worn on the body would be a huge success by the turn of the century.

    In contrast, several of the ideas that were originally conceived as wearables, including mobile phones now have the ability to do location and imaging. This article provides a concise overview of the development of wearable computing and explains why smartphones now dominate the market.

    Smart clothing classification:

    Traditional classifications of smart textiles may be broken down into three classes, depending on their intended use.

    The first generation: Passive smart textiles

    Rather than actively interacting with their surroundings, passive smart textiles just collect data on environmental variables and stimuli. The only components of this kind of fabric are sensors. Clothing that blocks ultraviolet rays, fabric with built-in optical sensors, and plasma-treated garments are just a few examples.

    The second generation: Active smart textiles

    In the latest iteration of “smart” textiles, sensors and actuators are integrated into the fabric design. Active smart textiles can remember their previous form, retain their chameleon-like properties, control their temperature, repel water, prevent the absorption of vapors, and store the body heat they generate. The textiles are, in a word, intelligent.

    The third generation: Ultra smart textiles

    Third-generation fabrics have evolved considerably. They are able to perceive a wide variety of facts, as well as predict future outcomes and adapt to new environments with little to no fine-tuning. Fabrics with an embedded computer may perform cognitive functions like the human brain. Spacesuits, I-wear, sports jackets, musical jackets, wearable computers, and other similar items are all instances of this category of apparel.

    End-user based design of innovative smart clothing:

    User requirements analysis, prospective research, and testing of near market prototypes are all steps in the design research and development process of a smart garment layering system that call for a hybrid approach.

    Without a comprehensive profile of the actual needs of the wearer or end-user, the breadth of possible combinations of materials, design elements, and wearable technology is intimidating. The designer or product development team new to this hybrid area of design is provided with a design tool that identifies essential aspects to help them get started.

    Tree of requirements for the design development of performance sportswear (McCann, 2000)

    The technology layer: the impact of emerging smart technologies on the design process

    Increasingly complex clothing system design may now include smart features and wearable electronics thanks to an infinite choice of textile structures and finishes and revolutionary garment manufacturing processes. 

    This chapter focuses on requirements capture for the creation of an apparel layering system with a practical end-use in mind, one that may benefit from the integration of smart textiles and wearable technology at all points. The selection of fiber and fabric structures, the dying and finishing processes, the enclosing of soft electronics, and the incorporation of powering devices and displays are only some of the many opportunities to include smart characteristics into a product.

    Actively smart textiles are able to perceive and respond to the state or stimuli, highly smart textiles are able to sense, react, and adapt, and intelligent textiles are able to respond in a pre-programmed way (Gonzales, 2003).

    Insulation and moisture-wicking structures are examples of “passive smart” properties; antimicrobial protection and reflective detailing are examples of “active smart” attributes; and phase change impact protection, as in “d3o” (d3o, 2008) and thermal regulation, as in “Outlast,” are examples of “very smart” features (Outlast, 2008).

    The incorporation of power and signal channels into clothing and accessories has been made possible by recent breakthroughs in “intelligent” technology, opening the door to uses as diverse as the monitoring of vital signs (such as heart rate, temperature, and breathing) and geographic position.

    Written By,


    Department of Textile Engineering

    National Institute of Textile Engineering and Research

    [email protected]



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