Clothing has been one of the three basic human needs since the beginning of our species. From clothing purpose the use of textile has progressively extended to household and domestic applications. The textile was also used for technical applications such as sailcloth, tent, protective garments, ropes, etc., which leveraged the textile properties to create a technical performance advantage.
Smart textiles are defined as textiles that can sense and react to environmental conditions or stimuli, from mechanical, thermal, magnetic, chemical, electrical, or other sources. They are able to sense and respond to external conditions (stimuli) in a predetermined way. Interactive textiles are a relatively new discipline in the textile sector. They are active materials that have sensing and actuation properties. The expressions of “smart” and “intelligent” textiles or “wearable electronic” textiles are commonly used interchangeably.
Smart textiles have applications in medical, sports, personal protective equipment, geo-protection, military, and aerospace sectors, where sensing and monitoring are already used and would only be made more efficient if integrated with textiles. The development of wearable monitoring systems is already having an effect on healthcare in the form of “Telemedicine”. Wearable devices allow physiological signals to be continuously monitored during normal daily activities
Their potential is enormous. one could think of smart clothing that makes us feel comfortable at all times, during any activity and in any environmental conditions, a suit that protects and monitors, that warns in case of danger and even helps to treat diseases and injuries. Such clothing could be used from the moment we are born till the end of our life. Some of the more important efforts include applications that Aid in patient health monitoring through sensor embedded garments that track and record biometric data, helps to improve athletic performance both by analyzing sensor data and adapting to changing conditions. So as to improve performance over the time. Provides environmental sensing and communication technologies for military defense and other security personals.
Smart Textiles Market
The smart textiles market is expected to grow from USD 2.3 billion in 2021 to USD 6.6 billion by 2026; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.2 % during the forecast period. The incorporation of advanced technologies into smart textiles, miniaturization of electronic components, and expanding wearable electronics industry are some of the key drivers for the growth of smart textiles market. The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the demand for smart textiles, especially in 2020 and 2021.
However, as a large share of the global population is working from home and preferring to perform fitness activities indoors attributed to social distancing guidelines, the demand for sports and fitness apparel/accessories integrated with smart applications and sensors that can monitor heart rate and oxygen level has increased, which is expected to boost the growth of the smart textiles market. Besides, hospitals in some countries, e.g., the US, are using smart textiles in various forms, such as heated blankets and socks, during the pandemic crisis.
Driver: Implementation of advance technologies in smart textiles
The emergence of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed the textile industry. New smart apparel is being manufactured integrated with AI, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), edge computing, and cloud data, which can monitor and communicate the wearer’s information, including blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration, and temperature. AI can access and collect historical and real-time operational data and provide insights, which can enhance the wearer’s efficiency. Defect detection, pattern inspection, and color matching are some of the common applications of AI in textile manufacturing. The use of AI has enabled the production of smart apparel that leverage IoT and electronic sensors to create an excellent user experience. The integration of technologies in textiles can provide a more comfortable and health-focused experience. Since clothes cover a major portion of the body, smart textiles can potentially provide different types of physiological information. Besides, smart textiles highly rely on BLE and IoT technologies for a long-lasting energy source from their embedded battery.
Restraint: Lack of standards and regulations
The lack of standards and regulations is expected to be a key restrain for the market growth as it is making it difficult for smart fabric manufacturers to scale up and commercialize new and incremental technologies. The production of smart textiles can pose serious environmental and health hazards. Some of the major operations of the textile industry are de-sizing, bleaching, dyeing, neutralizing, scouring, mercerizing, printing, and finishing. These operations lead to the discharge of high-level toxic effluents that contaminate soil, as well as cause air, groundwater, and surface water pollution. Thus, the establishment of environmental standards is necessary to control the pollution caused by the textile and leather industries.
Opportunity: Development of multi-featured and hybrid smart textile
People nowadays usually own multiple mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and are further looking for compact devices, which can integrate all the computing and monitoring into a single device. This presents an opportunity for the development of multi-function and hybrid smart textiles that not only make users’ life easy but also bring in convergence with many wearable devices. For instance, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have incorporated conductive textiles into clothing to dynamically connect several wearable devices at once. This wireless body sensor network allows devices to transmit data with 1,000 times stronger signals than conventional technologies. They are expected to be used in human-machine interfaces, health monitoring, and medical interventions.
Challenge: Product protection and thermal consideration
Smart textiles such as smart shirts and health monitors that are worn continuously function in rugged conditions involving dust and moisture. Materials used in packaging and assembly remain sensitive to external temperature and moisture. The operating temperature of the device is decided based on reliability requirements and the comfort level of users. These thermal design challenges are significant enough since it is required for the comfort and longevity of the product.
Global smart textiles market is segmented into military and defense, healthcare, automotive, entertainment, sports and fitness, and others including architecture and fashion. Majority of the revenue in the global smart textiles for wearable technology comes from its military and safety applications followed by home and architectural applications.The military and defense sector accounted for 28.7% of the market in 2014.
On the basis of function the global smart textiles market can be categorized into sensing, energy harvesting, luminescent, thermoelectricity, and others. Textile sensors form a huge and significant sub-segment of smart textiles. This is because sensing ability is the most essential characteristic of any smart textile product. The application in the sports and fitness sector is expected to exhibit high growth during the forecast period. There is also a considerable demand for the smart textile market in architecture. Non-wearable smart textiles can be found in the architecture and design sector.
Active/ultra-smart textiles segment to have largest market share during the forecast period
The active/ultra-smart textiles segment held the largest market share in 2020. Active/ultra-smart textiles are embedded with electronic components such as sensors and actuators, which can sense and react to stimuli. They are used to make outfits used by sports persons, firefighting teams, defense personnel (bulletproof jackets), and other professionals. The use of textile-based products can be more comfortable when the textile is able to react to the environment.
Sensing function to have the largest market size of smart textiles market during the forecast period
In 2020, the sensing segment held the largest market size of the smart textiles market and is expected to witness significant growth during the forecast period. Smart textiles find applications in the medical, sports, military, and aerospace sectors, where sensing and monitoring are already used and would only be made more efficient if integrated with textiles.
Military and protection vertical to have significant market size during the forecast period.
The military and protection segment is expected to hold significant market size of the smart textiles market during the forecast period. Smart textiles for military application offer various features such as advanced insulation properties and ballistics protection, as well as are made from waterproof fabric, while some are capable of health monitoring and equipped with GPS system, sensors, and motion trackers.
The driving factors for the growth of this market include the uptrend in wearable electronics industry, growing popularity of smart gadgets with advanced features, miniaturization of electronic components, and a rapid growth of low-cost smart wireless sensor networks.
However, the growth in this market is expected to be restrained by high cost of production of smart textiles and compatibility issues.The slow rate of adoption and the lack of exhaustive standards and regulations are the major restraining factors for the growth of the smart textiles market.
Among the geographies Europe dominated the market in 2015 followed by North America. Asia Pacific region is expected to grow at the highest CAGR over the forecast period.
North America accounts for the largest market size during the forecast period.
North America accounted for the largest market size of the smart textiles market. The high demand for smart textiles in the US, especially from the military and protection, healthcare, and sports and fitness verticals, is one of the key factors that has led to the dominant position of the North American smart textiles market. Besides, several key smart textile manufacturers such as DuPont (US), Gentherm (US), Sensoria (US), Alphabet (US), and Jabil (US) are based in North America, which is positively impacting the growth of the regional market
Major players in the smart textiles market are Google Inc. (U.S.), Intelligent Clothing Ltd. (U.K.), International Fashion Machines, Inc. (U.S.), Interactive Wear AG (Germany), Schoeller Textiles AG (Switzerland), Textronics, Inc. (U.S.), Vista Medical Ltd. (Canada), Textronics, Inc. (U.S.), Gentherm Incorporated (U.S.), and Sensoria Inc. (U.S.).