Eurecat, the Technological Centre of Catalonia, in MatarÃ³, Spain, is at the forefront of smart textile innovation has created a T-shirt with sensors that monitor heart-rate, temperature, breathing or sweating and determine if, or when, they are suffering stress.
It can be useful for bus or lorry drivers with long working hours, people who require a high levels of concentration or spend many hours sitting in front of the computer. This shirt, which sends data to a mobile phone, is just one way that smart clothing can make our world safer, more efficient and more fun.
However, it is in sports where intelligent fabrics have their greatest success. According to Virginia GarcÃa, director of the Functional Textiles Unit at Eurecat, this is one of the fields with the greatest potential.
GarcÃa highlights T-shirts that monitor vital signs, but also heated or electroluminescent garments for cyclists or runners and swimsuits that change colour upon contact with water, such as those used by members of the Ukrainian synchronized swimming team during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
In addition, Eurecat, which promotes research to revitalise the Catalan textile industry, has designed pyjamas for babies that change colour to indicate that the child has fever or swimsuits that warn you if they are receiving too much ultraviolet radiation.
According to data provided by Eurecat, in 2018 the smart clothing industry will be worth 135 million euros worldwide. There are people ready to buy, said Cristina Casellas, technology promoter of the Functional Printing and Embedded Devices Unit at Eurecat. However, technology doesnâ€™t go as fast as demand.
Today, itâ€™s a field with limitations. Virginia GarcÃa admits products are difficult to industrialise, since there is a lack of intermediaries between the textile manufacturers and those of electronics.
Both agree that they are about to see a significant take-off in the intelligent clothing market, but also that soft wearables need to be more accessible.
And there are still more challenges, such as the creation of more flexible and elastic E-textile and the integration of technology into the fabrics without the user noticing. Garments can be very intelligent, but if itâ€™s not comfortable, ergonomic and breathable, no one will wear it.
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