The future for Smart Textiles

The future for Smart Textiles

We read an interesting article recently about Smart textiles – devices or additives impregnated/included in fibre to create new fibre properties and functions.

As seen in both Seta and ActiVLayr, functional additives can introduce huge opportunities for fibres to solve problems in new ways. The theory goes that if an additive has a desirable property, including it into a fibre will give that fibre those properties. Although it’s not quite that simple, it has worked for us and helped us deliver new products.

Here’s a little excerpt from that article we mentioned:

The words “smart textiles” have generated much discussion in the industry and the media recently. India-based market research firm Markets and Markets has estimated the value of this high-tech textile sector to be about $4.7 billion by 2020. Given that the smart textile industry was estimated to be less than $1 billion in 2014, the anticipated growth is phenomenal: a cumulative annual growth rate of 30 percent.

In a speech April 1, when Dr. Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the new public/private consortium, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), he shared a prediction made by Dr. Yoel Fink, a member of the MIT faculty and the Director and CEO of AFFOA. Fink described the potential of AFFOA as the fiber equivalent of Moore’s Law. “You might call it the ‘AFFOA Law:’ the number of devices in a fiber will double every 12 months, inventing an industry that does not yet exist. Not just a handful of products, but a whole new industry,” Dr. Reif reported.

As the smart textiles sector is evolving and not yet really defined, to propose a bold projection to gauge the growth may be premature. Nevertheless, it sets the stage for this sector that has tremendous enthusiasm among stakeholders. This mood is quite evident with the government as well, as it has invested heavily in the AFFOA, whose overarching goal is to revolutionize textile manufacturing in the United States.

What does it mean to be “smart?”
Smart textiles are those that are nontraditional, have interactive functionalities and have new or non-commodity applications. This definition is broad-based to accommodate the diverse nature of the value-added textiles sector. It is not in the best interest of the industry to try to dwell too much on establishing a concise definition. However, as the field is nascent and emerging, it would serve the industry well to group those sectors that can be brought into the smart textiles folder.

It will be a challenge to adopt a universally acceptable definition to precisely categorize this sector, as it can involve the entire fiber-to-fashion supply chain in developing new advanced textile products. An inclusive description could be this: smart textiles are next generation advanced textiles for which applications are evolving and, in some cases, yet to be developed.

That interesting article can be found here.

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