After speaking at a recent panel hosted by the Department of Commerce and the Industrial Fabrics Association International at the Smart Fabrics Summit, FRG Director Daniel Cotter, said the use of smart fabrics as a technology platform is “something FRG can build off of.”
“Over all,” Cotter said, “we need to think of smart fabrics as being a technology platform to support the Next Generation First Responder Apex Program which is specifically designed to help tomorrow’s first responder be better protected, connected and fully aware. It is really an interesting concept for us to be thinking about in the future.”
According to Cotter, first responders will see the results of research and development in the smart fabrics community soon.
“I am expecting next fiscal year we will make a major push into this tech. We could be prototyping things here in the next 18 months. Given testing cycles and certifications, I would say we expect to see initial products on the market in two or three years.”
FRG will also be considering how to best partner with other research organizations, such as the Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal. Located in New Jersey, ARDEC is an internationally acknowledged hub for the advancement of armament technologies and engineering innovation.
S&T is already working on technologies that have the potential to be embedded in smart fabrics. Wearables that can locate first responders during emergencies, house physiological monitoring devices and that can detect hazardous materials may, in the future, be integrated directly into actual garments to keep first responders safer.
Smart fabrics are becoming more familiar to the general public. These include fabrics that glow in the dark, breathe and resist water and wind. Innovators are also working on garments and fabrics with built-in electronics and computers. The idea is to enable the garment to communicate and transform data and even conduct energy.
During the summit in Washington, D.C. on April 11, experts, members of academia and officials from the White House, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense and DHS discussed how new technologies can ease the challenges and aid the missions that athletes, doctors, soldiers and first responders face daily.
“The characteristics of smart fabrics are very exciting for us. The idea that you can build microelectronics into fabrics so they can conduct energy and gain power from your movement, such as harnessing vibrations, sound or heat is something we need to leverage to support first responders,” said Cotter.
Needless to say, there are also challenges ahead. The fact that the garments are required to be washable, lightweight, easy to use, easy to power and not hackable pose formidable research challenges.
FRG is committed to understanding more about this evolving technology and building partnerships throughout the research and industrial communities.
For more information on visit the Next Generation First Responder Apex Program page.