E-Textile means Electronic Textile. It is also known as smart textile. Electronic textiles are the textile fabrics with electronics and interconnections woven in their structure that enable the integration of electronic functions and attachments. They possess the physical flexibility and size not known in conventional electronics. Components and interconnections are intrinsic to the fabric structure with reduced chance to be seen, tangled together or snagged by the surroundings. Thinking for electronics that can be draped over a vehicle or a tank is achievable using textile fabrics.
Application of Electronic Textiles
The Uses of E Textiles can be divided into two main categories:
- E-textiles with classical electronic devices such as conducting wires, integrated circuits, LEDs, and conventional batteries into garments. This is the common type of e-textile.
- E-textiles with modern electronics directly on the textile fibers. This can include can either passive electronics such as pure wires, conducting textile fibers, or more advanced electronics such as transistors, diodes and solar cells. The field of embedding advanced electronic components onto textile fibers is sometimes called fibertronics.
There are several applications of e-textiles, ranging from healthcare to consumer goods. Here are few we feel play an important role in advancing technology across these industries.
Perhaps, the most well-researched application of e-textiles is medical. Specifically, the monitoring of health conditions. Currently, there are medical wearables that have been invented to monitor several aspects of a person’s health, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and symptoms of disease. Take for example, high blood pressure; several garments have been made with biosensors to collect data on systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This allows the user to easily detect triggers as they go about their day, and report back to their physician so an effective treatment and management plan can be put in place. For health applications, e-textiles often function as either electrodes (which can be used for direct readings like EKG or EMG) or power and data cables, connecting together sensors and power sources.
Occupational safety is another area where e-textiles can provide a great deal of service. One hypothetical use is for construction workers who are working outdoors late at night. LED lights can be affixed to a uniform and automatically turn on when it gets dark outside, improving visibility. However, LEDS are not the only electronic component used for safety applications. According to Euronews, an automatic radio transmitter has been added to a smart outfit worn by fishermen in Norway. The transmitter sends signals to an external system, allowing them to stop a boat and send coordinates to a rescue team in case of an emergency. How incredible is that?
A favorable feature among drivers is heated seats. Who doesn’t like being blanketed in warmth while driving? While it is often a luxury, heated seats and steering wheels are essential for drivers in frigid temperatures. Turns out, you can thank e-textiles for this technology. Our LOOMIA Electronic Layer, in particular, can heat car seats and steering wheels up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. And, the magic doesn’t stop there. Our soft user interfaces can be used throughout a vehicle’s interior to control a variety of functions to make riders more comfortable, and our LEL can provide cabin lighting that produces a variety of ambient effects for an aesthetically pleasing driving experience.
Several companies are developing garments and accessories made from smart textiles that track and record data based on athletes’ motion. Retisense, for example, developed a ‘smart insole’ for runners to place in their sneakers. The smart insole can help runners improve their form and avoid injury. This invention could prove useful to marathon runners when they are in the midst of training, and are looking for ways to improve their overall performance. When it comes to clothing, companies like Wearable Experiments and Athos have led the way for high performing athletic wear that brings extra functionality to athletes.
New User Interfaces
E-textiles can also be used to get the most out of external devices and media, Jacquard by Google is a perfect example of this. Jacquard is a wearable technology created by Google that has been added to garments and accessories. The capacitive touch grid that acts as a user interface on the jacket is woven directly into the product, and has the ability to answer calls, play music, take photos, and get directions with a simple gesture. And, e-textiles aren’t just making it easier to use devices; they are saving battery power. According to Futurity, a “wireless body sensor network” built into a garment allows devices (such as a smartphone) to transmit data faster; in-turn, improving battery usage.