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Next to Come: Putting on Technology in the Morning

April 5, 2016
Plain English Version

Fabric

Some are calling it the “Internet of Things.” It is starting in textiles.

In a few years from now, your pants and jackets may be computers. They will cool you or keep you warm. They may even protect you from dangers such as explosions.

It is all in the fabrics. Businesses, the government, and universities are betting big. They see a revival of the U.S. textile industry.

It is coming soon to the armed forces. Uniforms may identify friend or foe. They will have sensors to prevent death by friendly fire. New uniforms will be invisible to enemy night-vision goggles.

The new technology involves embedding tiny semiconductors and sensors into fabrics. The fabrics can see, hear, communicate, store energy, regulate body temperature. The fabrics can even track the wearer’s health.

It is starting big with fabrics. Some of the names are “functional fabrics,” “connected fabrics” and “textile devices.” The work is beginning in incubators around the country. Spending will be more than $320 million.

The U.S. textile industry has been losing ground to foreign factories for years. Experts believe the new technology is a game changer. They believe it will produce 50,000 new jobs in the years ahead. It will turn the industry around. Functional fabrics represent “the future of apparel.”

The new fabrics are now going into safety gloves and body armor for the police and military.

Will the public go for it? A designer said these fabrics may cool you, warm you and check your health, and still be a flop. They have to be affordable, lightweight, washable and attractive. He said, “If someone is wearing a smart garment and you cannot tell, I will have succeeded.”

Source: The New York Times April 1, 2016

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