The traditional textile and clothing industry is loosing its jobs and capacity in the Nordic countries as well as in the whole EU. The industry needs more value added products compared to the low cost imports that are flooding the market. Intelligent textiles and wearable technology is a new and exciting research and development area that cross-scientifically implants new properties into the traditional textile products, such as monitoring biosignals through textile embedded sensors, automatic thermal regulation based on phase change or shape memory materials, transfer of signals by means of fibre optics, etc.
Several research institutes in the Nordic and Baltic countries have carried out R&D projects on smart textiles and wearable technology on their own for the past eight to nine years. In 2003 it was felt that by joining forces more resources could be brought into the projects to better qualify for international funding, and NEST – Nordic Centre of Excellence for Smart Textiles and Wearable Technologies was established. The members of the CoE are SmartWearLab and Kankaanpää Unit of the Institute of Electronics of Tampere University of Technology, IFP SICOMP, Swedish School of Textiles, Danish Technological Institute, SINTEF and the Faculty of Design and Technology of Kaunas University.
Smart textiles and wearable technology solutions give added value to a large variety of products. Potential application areas are:
- Health care, e.g. patients’ clothing with integrated sensors
- Protective clothing for extreme working conditions, e.g. fire fighters
- Technical textiles
- Sport and leisure wear
- Military clothing