The need for products with enhanced functionality and performance in end-user industries is driving the adoption of smart fabrics globally. Concurrent developments in the field of electronics, especially in terms of fabrication and integration technologies, are fuelling this trend. Smart fabric manufacturers will still require fool-proof encapsulation technologies to protect against moisture and chemicals.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Impact of Smart Fabrics in Key Applications (http://www.frost.com/d64c), finds that the United States and Western Europe are leading markets with a large number of technology developments, patents, and stakeholder initiatives in smart fabrics for the healthcare, sports and fitness sectors.
"Smart fabrics are widely adopted in the sports arena since athletes look to constantly improve upon their performance and simultaneously store data for profound analysis," noted Technical Insights Industry Analyst Vivek Ninkileri. "Similarly, passive smart fabrics will be used extensively in personal protective equipment and apparels to reduce the extent of risks users are exposed to and provide them with a desirable environment based on external stimuli."
Smart fabrics will also gain popularity in the healthcare sector to support requirements such as the continuous monitoring of patients with chronic health disorders at a low cost. Research priorities in Europe particularly, lie in developing smart fabrics technologies and products for the healthcare sector. In addition to manufacturing garments and textiles for physiological monitoring, areas such as the development of specialised coatings for fabrics, conductive fabrics, and electronic textiles, have found a place in R&D plans in the region.
"Rolling out robust smart fabrics technologies is the best way to cater to the R&D portfolios of companies that have been focusing on creating protective coatings for medical devices," noted Ninkileri. "Market participants must recognise these opportunities and work towards overcoming market challenges to ensure sustainable business."
A key challenge for the market is the lack of exhaustive standards and regulations, making it difficult for smart fabric manufacturers to scale up and commercialise new and incremental technologies. However, research activities and immense interest from stakeholders will eventually address this issue.