Fabrics as the New Software

Advances in fabric technology have made today’s uniforms both comfortable and good looking, a far cry from those worn by previous generations. Now, the industry is readying itself for the next leap forward; a uniform that looks good, feels good, and acts “smart.” In the very near future, uniforms, apparel and accessories could include fabrics that see, hear, sense, communicate, regulate temperature, monitor health and change color.
Some of this is still years away, but a couple of products have already been introduced using smart technology. One, a backpack that allows the user to “program” their pack through a smartphone app, can increase access to security in schools. The other uses LED-based lighting and could be used to provide tracking and navigation in indoor locations where GPS does not exist. It’s intended for hospitals, theaters, sports facilities and other venues.
Rather than treating clothing as just another commodity, the group behind these ventures, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), envisions fabrics a service, similar to the way software is sold.
AFFOA is a public-private partnership that is collaborating with MIT. We’ll keep you updated on its endeavors.