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Computers will soon be in our clothes

Whether the advances in wearable technology are outstripping what the public might actually want is an area for a different discussion; at the moment, the technological advances continue to be impressive. The latest news is a significant step towards having a computer fully integrated into clothing.

The step forward in electronics has come from The Ohio State University. Here, technologists have developed embroidered antennas and circuits down to a precision level of just 0.1 milimeters. At this micro-size it is possible to integrate electronic components, including computer chips and sensors. This would mean textiles — your everyday clothes — that could collect, store, or transmit digital information.

What could someone do with this? Such technology could lead to:

Having built-in antennae that goes with you wherever you go. This could be linked to your smartphone or table, so you’d never lose a signal.
Devices that collect information about your fitness levels, more accurately than any fitness watch.
The collection of vital signs in relation to health data.
Bandages that signal to a medic if a wound is healing.

Commenting on the potential applications, lead researcher John Volakis, who is the director of the ElectroScience Laboratory at Ohio State, said: “A revolution is happening in the textile industry.” He refers to the materials as “e-textiles.”

The most important part of the meshing of fabric with electronics, Volakis explains, is the shape of the embroidery determines the frequency of operation of the antenna or circuit.

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The research is published in the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters. The paper is headed “Fabrication of Textile Antennas and Circuits With 0.1 mm Precision.”

In related news, there have been some important advances with self-cleaning fabrics. With these, it is now possible to make a dress or t-shirt that self-cleans when exposed to sunlight. Digital Journal has covered this impressive development.

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