Spanish non-profit association AITEX (Textile Industry Research Association) is working on a new family of intelligent clothes that will feature embedded autonomous sensors. The association is researching flexible antennas built into textiles that will harvest energy to power up devices embedded in clothes.
Current development of this maintenance-free and intelligent clothing is based on temperature and movement detection sensors but ‘future solutions could monitor the user’s heartbeat or breathing for sports and healthcare applications’ says Josue Ferri, Information and Communication Technologies Projects Technician in AITEX.
AITEX has already developed temperature, heartbeat and breathing monitoring solutions based on Bluetooth technology but these devices need to be smaller and the battery life for the sensors is shorter than desired. For this reason AITEX has started to look at passive electronics that can be embedded into textiles. This is ideal for medical and sport applications where both user comfort and zero-maintenance of the electronics are important factors.
The technical development allows the introduction of battery-free technology into the clothing with flexible textile antennas. Textile materials are being designed to harness energy from different sources. By leveraging their expertise on RFID technology – which is becoming a trend in retail - and the experience acquired running different R&D projects on textile materials AITEX is manufacturing clothes to harness energy form RF fields.
In order to embed the desired sensors without requiring batteries, AITEX is using Farsens’s ANDY100 RFID chip. The energy harvested by the textile is then used by the chip to manage sensors and wirelessly send data back to the system.
AITEX has worked on these developments as part of the AMBIENTEX project in conjunction with AIDO (Technological Institute of Optics, Colour and Imaging) and supported by the Conselleria d’ Economia, Indústria, Turisme I Ocupació de la Generalitat Valenciana through IVACE, and is co-financed by EU FEDER funding: reference IMDEEA/2012/71.