|MIT Technology Review|
Colour or shape-changing clothes, or clothes with purposes beyond aesthetics such as the detection of health risks. That is the future suggested by Joanna Berzowska, director of the department of Design and Computation Arts at the Concordia University (Montreal, Canada) and head of the electronic textiles company OM Signal. In her laboratory, they work with «reactive garments», those in which electronic components are included, modifying their properties and even storing energy.
Berzowska explained her research in the EmTech symposium of the MIT Technology Review, held in Valencia on November 6, where technology as a way to revitalize industry was discussed. Thus, Berzowska highlighted the need to «completely renew» manufacture strategies and «combine» textile products with electronics. «Our horizon is to transfer functionality inside fiber and manufacture it quickly, the reason why we need more sophisticated lines of production».
This industrial approach would allow, mid-long term, the popularization of electronic clothing depending, mainly, on the combination of two consolidated, interdependent business sectors: textile and fashion industry and electronics. This can block Berzowska’s research, but the path of electronic textiles could be the catalyst for areas of textile tradition such as Canada or Valencia to revive their industry.
Now, the main challenge of this innovative industry, a mix of textile and electronics is, according to the researcher, miniaturization and integration in the fabric not just of sensors but of the electronic components to operate them. However, there is already a first functional prototype. It is a t-shirt that detects the wearer’s biometrics and offers a great variety of information: heartbeats per minute, rate of breathing, steps taken and calories burnt during the day, etc. Also, the software in the t-shirt analyses all the information to detect the mood of the user, stress peaks, relax, pleasure or work intensity, etc. The user receives all the information in real time in his mobile device, so the t-shirt can give advice like: «your stress levels are increasing, try to relax», or even foresee the health state of the user, for instance, informing about a possible heart attack.
Kèlsang Bas Belda. Journalism student at the University of Valencia.
«The path of electronic textiles could be the catalyst for areas of textile tradition to revive their industry»
«The user receives all the information in real time in his mobile device, so the t-shirt can give advice»