The Smart Clothes of the Future

The Smart Clothes of the Future

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“Smartclothes” that read our bodies and the environment around us are not too far away.

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In this article Old Moore made some predictions about the coming decades. An interesting one was that the internet will be everywhere. “It will be connected to our cars, our bodies, our homes, our work areas, everywhere we go, there it is. And this isn’t something to be afraid of. Our wearable devices will alert us and medical teams if we have a heart attack or are in anaphylactic shock, and medical help will be deployed even before we know we are in crisis.”

Well it looks like that prediction is going to become a reality sooner rather than later. Soon, our clothes will be “smart clothes” that will indeed help us run our lives.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh think they may have invented “materials that compute.” The material is fuelled by chemical reactions, and can perform computations based on changes in the environment or movement, and potentially even respond to human vital signs. The sensing material could be used in clothing fabric or be used as an insert into a shoe.

Such fabrics could enable burn patients who has lost the sense of touch know whether they are in contact with a hot or cold material. The fabric could also be used by fitness fanatics: a running suit could monitor and display pulse, pressure, and respiration. The material will be able to sense things like the weather, how your body is coping with the situation you are in, and it can monitor vital signs of patients. It can even help the visually impaired “sense” their surrounding environment.

And here’s the most interesting bit: the new material does not need external wiring or typical computer processors. The new reactive material is capable of performing computations without external energy inputs or with help from a computer.

So how does it work?

“Smart gels” are placed inside lightweight fabric. Chemical reactions taking place within these gels give the material a type of “memory.” These reactions take place when exposed to human touch, motion and environmental stimuli. The reactions within the gels perform information processing which can be read by the human wearing the smart clothes. The material would perform autonomously for up to several hours without having to charge it up at a wall socket.

The two boffins working on this are are Anna Balazs, Ph.D., a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, and Steven P. Levitan, Ph.D., John A. Jurenko professor of electrical and computer engineering. They say that while these materials aren’t available on the open market quite yet, the promise is near.

Most of us will probably be most interested in the fitness-monitoring aspect and the health-reading aspects of these smart clothes. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know how well they are doing on an intense run? Or that in they will be having a heart attack in 30 minutes? Oh yes, we could be a fan of this. Keep working scientists, we like smart clothes a whole lot.

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