‘Intimacy White’ (2009) by Daan Roosegaarde, V2_Lab and Maartje Dijkstra. An example of smart textile


Wearable Kinesthetic Systems, Alessandro Tognetti, Federico Lorussi, Mario Tesconi, Raphael Bartalesi, Giuseppe Zupone, Danilo De Rossi (2005)


Example of a health sensing garment developed by Athos

Sensing garments monitor the movement of the muscles and posture of the body. Human movement is analysed with anatomic segments like electromagnetic sensors. However, conventional sensors in wearable sensing systems are often rigid and uncomfortable, obstructive due to the requirement of mechanical plug. Thus, newer systems like Upper Limb Kinesthetic Garment (ULKG) and the Sensing Glove are developed to improve these drawbacks.

Both utilise Conductive Elastomer (CE) sensors which is made by combining silicon rubber and graphite, then spread across an elastic fabric substrate (Lycra) that is capable of customising shape and dimension for sensors. Metallic wires can be avoided in which are uncomfortable and inconvenient.

For example, ULKG detects posture of the various components of the arm. With around 20 sensors spread across the shirt, information is obtained regarding the joints of the arm. This is beneficial for patients to perform rehabilitation in unmonitored environments, where the physician is not present. Error by the sensors are often almost negligible.

The main advantage gained with this new technology is enabling people to wear for longer periods without discomfort, less obtrusive devices in the garments and accurate performance via the trial tests.

Wearable Electronics and Smart Textiles: A Critical Review, Matteo Stoppa and Alessandro Chiolerio (2014)

Smart Textiles are created with the integration of textiles and electronics, with the electronics being interwoven with the fabric.

There are 3 different types of smart textiles and the materials used also differ between each group of smart textiles.

1. Passive smart textiles: purely sensory, only able to sense environment and the user

Makes use of fabric sensors, e.g. thermocouples for temperature sensing and electromyography (EMG) sensors for tracking muscle activity. Also makes use of actuators which reacts to a signal given by a central control unit. Both are crucial to development of passive smart textiles.


Example of Electromyography (EMG) sensor used to track muscle activity.

2. Active smart textiles: sense and react to environment

Combines both an actuator and sensing device. Requires power to function, in which could be generated through piezoelectric systems. Categorised into 2 active systems: input devices and display devices. Input devices might include shape-sensitive fabrics that is able to track manipulation to fabric like stretching, flexing. Display devices might include electroluminescent yarns that emit light for aesthetic visuals.


Electroluminescent yarn used in Algae Lyrae collection (2008) by Vega Zaishi Wan

3. Very smart textiles: sense, react and adapt behaviour according to differing situations

Smart materials are being integrated into fabric via varying technologies. Examples of technology include embroidery or knitting. Combination of various source materials results in wide array of possible textiles. Early attempts are made for the textile itself to be used for electronic function for higher comfort.

Smart Textiles are being further developed for various fields like medical and sport. Research is being done for sensors and interactive elements to be incorporated into the clothing.