The future of fabrics is definitely getting cleverer, and more exciting. Developments in manufacturing techniques and garment design have enabled smart fabrics to be developed with nano-technology that are genuinely useful, well-designed, durable and in demand by consumers. Uses for smart fabrics are wide-ranging, including aesthetic applications in fashion design and providing information to the wearer via apps. Health, beauty and medical industries are starting to take advantage of the clever potential of smart fabrics, while their performance enhancing capabilities are impacting fitness and extreme sports sectors. These fabrics are fast outgrowing their once geeky, futuristic reputation and now have vast potential across fashion, health and sport.

Smart Fabrics Are Problem Solvers

As developments in smart fabrics continue, the capability of these products to be used in daily life increases. Improvement in technology means that smart fabrics are now truly interactive, giving clothes true sensing abilities. The development of nano- technology means that the active materials and sensors are placed in the fabric itself, rather than as a gadget. Examples of this include UV protected sun wear with sensors to tell the wearer to apply more sun protection, Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket that uses smart-fabric to allow the wearer to interact with map apps and phone calls and the development of clothes that alter to the surrounding environment temperature. Smart technology also allows fashion to have fun with lights and circuits, creating exciting new opportunities in fashion design.

Smart fabrics are also being used to benefit other areas, including medical monitoring. This includes Neopenda’s hat for newborn babies, in which a vital signs monitor is fitted to monitor heart rate, temperature and blood oxygen levels. This has huge potential in developing the world. A smart sock by Owlet allows identification and monitoring of serious medical conditions in infants.  Active materials in smart fabrics also enable sensors to be embedded into garments for constant patient health monitoring, reporting and tracking key health information, potentially for life.

Fitness Is Getting Smarter And Safer

The use of smart fabric in the sport and fitness, for both amateurs and professional athletes is one of the biggest areas of growth for smart fabrics. Developments in technology such as thermal plastic foams have generated fabrics that improve functionality and athletic performance.. Smart fabrics can now measure the chemical composition of your body, your body temperature, blood flow and heart rate. Constant data collection through fitness clothes can be used to analyse data on performance and conditions, creating improvements. Environmental sensors can be embedded to allow fabrics to change according to surrounding temperature and body temperature, something which has real potential for improving performance in athletes.

Smart fabric sportswear incredibly now also has the power to actively work to prevent injury. Innovation continues to be key for big active brands, for example Under Armour Inc. (UA). UA is the first active apparel brand to use auxetic smart materials. When these are stretched, they have the ability to absorb impact and resist fractures, creating game-changing trainers for athletes in their 3D printed Architech hybrid trainer.

In addition, polyurethane foam is benefiting impact protection in sports. For example, PORON® XRD™ has extreme impact protection allowing up to 90% of the energy generated by a high-speed impact, yet is thin, light, flexible and breathable. This is hugely beneficial in high impact sports such as tennis and running.

Smart Fabrics Are The Future

Smart fabrics have absolutely huge potential to influence not only fashion, but fitness, health and well-being sectors. Technology now enables sensors and active materials to be woven and embedded in fabric, creating innovative opportunities to track data, monitor health and to use technology seamlessly. Smart fabrics are also being developed to actively reduce injury and improve athletic performance, making the future extremely exciting for manufacturers, designers and consumers alike.

Textile Consult is a management and training consultancy for textile manufacturers and retailers worldwide. Contact us today to see how we can make your business more effective and sustainable.