Have you ever wondered why we wear clothes? Unlikely, but the need for clothes is one of the most important. The topics of our conversations are mostly iPhones and smartphones, laptops, and other devices, clothing, and smart gear. The word “smart” takes on a new meaning as it becomes part of our daily vocabulary in a new and innovative way. So, “smart” clothing is likely to quickly develop with unique properties and become available for all-purpose use. The global smart textiles market is expected to reach $5.9 billion by 2026, which means increased interest in smart fabric.
But what is smart fabric, and how does it work?
Smart fabrics are not exactly new; they have been around since the 90s. Smart fabrics contain sensors and indicators which monitor the human body, receive and process information, and trigger feedback on how well an individual is adjusting to their environment or act as early warning signs for fatigue or dehydration. Smart fabric technologies are used in military, medical, and other specific fields. Having researched “mil-spec clothing“, we’ve discovered its meaning and various applications.
Smart Fabric Technology
Modern technologies have made it possible to create products for different purposes. The data from the sensors undergo primary processing by means of electronics sewn into the smart fabric. It is then transferred to an external device, where appropriate applications conduct an analysis.
Smart fabric is considered to be in demand due to its functions:
- Protective. Such fabric can be used in clothing for tourists, hunters, and hikers. For instance, in 2018, self-tying sneakers made of smart fabric were developed. The new technology is in sensors that react to foot movement. Smart fabric can adapt to various weather conditions, and stabilize temperature, moisture, and pressure.
- Medical. This type of clothing will help support people with disabilities and increase their quality of life. With the help of smart fabrics, various diseases can be diagnosed at an early stage. Smart fabrics will take readings of the body’s vital signs: blood pressure, pulse rate, and blood sugar levels. The data will then be transferred to a medical facility. During the rescue operations, smart garments will inform commanders and medical staff who needs to be evacuated first, e.g., someone with a heart condition or severe injury or who needs first aid.
- Sport. The functionality of sports products is similar to medical ones. Thanks to smart technologies, it is possible to monitor pulse rate, respiration, heart rate, or even muscle tone, and how they develop after consistent training.
- Replace gadgets. You don’t need to pull your communication device out of your pocket in winter to answer a call. Just push the appropriate button on your smart gear. This way, an individual will always be able to communicate with ease.
What Is “Mil-Spec Clothing“?
When hearing mil-spec, it is automatically associated with specific military gear for harsh conditions. But mil-spec refers to any material or product that has been tested and met all regulatory requirements.
Mil-spec clothing is primarily associated with superweapons, laser tanks, new generation software, and artificial intelligence. The armies of the world are on their way to introducing a completely new military uniform.
Today’s soldier is not just a person but a whole combat unit, which must be provided with everything necessary for survival. Smart fabric is a garment with special technology that can interact with the environment, identify signals, process information, and respond quickly.
Such clothing can collect data and automatically send it wirelessly to an external computer. Mil-spec clothing also performs operations independently and analyzes results without user intervention. It is lightweight and does not absorb odors.
What does “smart” clothing include?
- Textile keyboard. Such an example is quantum tunneling in a composite material fabric that produces an electric current when pressed. Another method used to create a textile keyboard is to use layers of conductive and insulating fabric so that the conductive layers vibrate when pressed.
- Sensors. Their purpose is to measure heart and breathing rates. They operate using electrodes, and pressure sensors, and other technologies, such as sensors based on fiber Bragg grating.
- Accelerometer, or stretch sensors. These sensors allow monitoring of physical activity, get information about posture and limbs; it is notably helpful for wounded soldiers with limbs damage. As well, such function can be used for the diagnosis of different diseases, including epilepsy and other neurological disorder.
- Fiber optic. It allows you to track breaks in tissue and thus receive information about a person’s potential injury, and the content of various substances in the air or temperature fluctuations. Such a sensor contains chemicals that react to the composition or temperature of the air and affect the transmission of light through the fiber.
In the current unstable global military-political state of affairs, service members of different states must be prepared for various threats and obtain appropriate equipment. For this purpose, various hi-tech and nanotechnological innovations are used in the production of new military equipment. These innovations will likely be in high demand in the next 10 years. Today, Xmetix is one of the organizations involved in the development of smart fabric technologies.
Different kinds of fabric can be used for military purposes. They are smart fabric, polyester fabric, poly/wool, cotton fabric, cotton/polyester, linen fabric, and others.
Smart textiles technologies have many functions, among which there are parameters for measuring a person’s health, maintaining their general condition, and transferring information to an external storage device.
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Smart textiles are fabrics capable of measuring basic biometric and physical indicators using embedded IoT sensors to transfer this information to various services, applications, or fitness trackers.
It is part of a modular system of mil-spec gear. Often, it is implemented as webbing or grid attachment gear, which allows it to be easily attached to existing equipment.
Ballistic nylon is commonly used. This material is not bulletproof; however, it is considered one of the best military fabrics in the market.