SmartX focuses on 3 end applications for smart textiles which offer a sheer endless number of attractive high value niches for a large number of SME’sacross Europe. In each of them the EU is already an innovation leader:
- Protective wear (professional and recreational): A whole new set of functions, like monitoring, communication, better protection will be enabled, not only on protective wear for professional use (as it is a domain in which European manufacturing is leading worldwide) but also in protective wear for recreational applications. Examples: security personnel, workers at off-shore wind mills or firefighters. Spill-over effects into recreational markets such as sports however are significant and are also included in SmartX scope.
- Industrial applications: The addition of electronics offers a wealth of options like structural health monitoring (of composites materials), vibration damping, heating/cooling, lighting, smart coatings, energy generation and storage, data communication, processing and storage. Example: intelligent fibre-based envelopes forbuildings, temperature profile monitoring in transport bags, load /movement detection and actuation in automotive seating.
- Healthcare and well-being: Potential applications comprise in-shirt electrodes for monitoring of vital parameters, sensors for infection warning in hospital clothing or bedding, controlled release of pharmaceuticals from clothing, local heating and cooling in bandages or orthotics, security and alarm systems in carpets, or work wear for care givers. Especially the opportunity of remote monitoring of patients or people at risk in an unobtrusive and comfortable way in their every-day life environment offers great potential for home care and preventive medicine.
The focus on a potentially very large market that is in a critical breakthrough phase and in which Europe enjoys a privileged early competitive position which must not be lost. Recent growth in wearables, real-time data analytics and services created a market pull for smart textiles, quite a contrast with the technology push of the past. Indeed, not only because of the big data need, there is a demand or at least a wish for ubiquitous sensing and monitoring, by the user as well by industry. Textiles form an ideal means to collect unobtrusively data from people, objects or infrastructures, creating a unique and large market opportunity.