At the Wear 2022 Conference in Scottsdale, AZ, presenters from several companies described wearable products that used textile-based sensors. The end products included socks, boots, pants, shirts, leggings, wristbands, headbands and more. Textile-based sensing capabilities range from temperature and pressure to biosensors and more. Primary wearable end markets include healthcare and fitness/training.
“We design 100% textile pressure sensors, we weave biosensors and also have access to other sensors,” said David Vigano, CEO and Co-Founder, Sensoria Health Inc.
Having the sensors in the right position is essential for accurate measurements in socks, especially if the measurements observe the user’s gait and the sensing system attempts to improve it.
The Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), a nonprofit organization targeting the revitalization of textile industry using integrated technology, identifies integration techniques that include:
- filament draw
- yarn twisting
- cut & sew
All but two* of these eight items are uniquely textile processes.
One of the limitations of textile-based, wearable technologies is the signal processing, data aggregation and transmission that is readily performed by existing semiconductor manufacturers. Recognizing this, many companies use those existing capabilities and combine their textile-based sensing capabilities to provide unique products for targeted applications.
For the two items identified by AFFOA that are not uniquely textile industry processes, significant improvements in those areas would provide a competitive advantage to a company with a new approach. Liquid Wire’s gel phase circuitry is so thin and stretchable that sensors to measure 3D joint motion, muscle flex, and gesture are virtually unnoticeable in the wearable fabric.
In a new area such as wearable sensing/electronics standards play an essential role, especially for establishing system compatibility/interoperability and reliable measurements. The American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) develops test methods to maintain and run a standardized testing environment to assist the industry in reaching world-class reliability. The Smart Textile Alliance aims to solve the interoperability issues of smart textile solutions and components to avoid user frustration and reduce costs.