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The US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Massachusetts with SBIR partner, QinetiQ North America (formerly Foster-Miller), has developed, patented and prototyped a wearable electronic device for a textile-based electronic system. This device functions as a textile cable made of narrow woven or braided cloth webbing products. Electrical and/or fiber optic conductors are embedded within the webbing to conduct power or data. The conductors range from simple metal wires to the latest advanced conductive fibers.
In one configuration of the device, a textile USB cable was developed for the Army and is wash, fatigue, and data fidelity tested. It has integrated over-molded connectors and is typically demonstrated carrying a live video feed. A variant of the above textile cable can carry power and heat: textile power cables have been used in a commercial electric blanket.
Potential first responder applications of the technology could be for communications devices, and in particular to replace unwieldy coiled cables that connect a shoulder mounted microphone to a belt mounted radio, typically worn by policemen. Firefighters need wearable electronics both for communications and transmission of sensor data. In general, first responders will increasingly carry an array of human and environmental sensors, requiring wearable data transmission and processing capabilities for maximum comfort and mobility.
The estimated worldwide demand for wearable electronics is in the hundreds of millions of dollars within the next few years, with additional growth projected beyond.
- Comfortable, over-molded connectors are compatible with standard electronic components
- Designed and tested as part of several systems involving present-day and futuristic electronic devices
- Electronics are integrated with a breathable, conformal fabric to mitigate potential discomfort caused by heat generation of components
- US Patent 6,727,197 is available for non-exclusive license through the Express License platform