Smart clothes can improve occupational safety

Mar 24, 2005

”Smart clothes” are clothes that employ new technologies: technological developments have made it possible to integrate electronic components into conventional garments. In demanding conditions, such as working in heavy industries, very specific demands are placed on work apparel and materials, as they must protect the wearer from any hazards found in the working environment. Smart clothes design offers new material technology applications to make work apparel safer and more specifically suited to the work and environment in question. Smart clothes also make it possible for the wearer’s vital functions to be monitored, using, for example, an electromyograph (EMG).

The goal of the Academy-funded Models for Intelligent Garment Design (MeMoGa) research project is to develop methods and models for the research and design of smart clothes as well as to study matters related to their usability and social acceptability. The MeMoGa project approaches new, multidisciplinary research fields through the research of clothing design, fibre material technologies and physiology.

The material applications used in new types of work apparel include impact-protective materials, which can be divided into two categories: phase change materials (PCMs) and auxetic materials. "One example of phase change materials might be d3o, which is made of ”smart molecules”. Phase change materials move normally with the body, but when impacted, they protect the wearer by instantly hardening and then returning to their normal state once the impact load is released," explains researcher Mailis Mäkinen. Auxetic materials, on the other hand, are energy-absorbing materials, whose cross-section expands when stretched. "Auxetic materials include metals, ceramic or polymer materials or composites. These materials withstand pressure better than standard materials," says Mäkinen.

Many challenges facing the adoption of new materials

There are many challenges facing the use of new materials. The use of innovative new materials and integration of electronic and other types of components into garments requires, for example, the development of new types of testing methods and standards.

Furthermore, the development of materials, such as their mechanical properties, temporal durability or functionality in various conditions, may take a long time.

Garment-integrated electronics or other types of components in particular present problems in the washing or maintenance of the garment. In many cases the high cost of new materials discourages their adoption.

User needs and desires play a key role in the development of smart clothes

The needs and desires of work apparel users are surveyed before beginning the design of smart clothes, in order to ensure that the design will meet the user’s needs as effectively as possible. Before the design phase, it is important to identify the user as someone who is generally open to the use of technology and understand in what way a new technology, such as electronic components, change the user’s perceptions of the garment. This helps to predict how the technology should appear in the garment, i.e. how invisible or visible it can be.

A crucial part of ensuring the user-orientation of smart clothes is a usability assessment. A virtual prototype was developed for this purpose in order to allow end users evaluate a still non-existent smart garment before actually building the actual, physical prototype. "A virtual prototype involves such material as 3D models and 3D animations, which are used to present a realistic iteration of the prototype to the user instead of just showing them conceptual drawings. Animation makes it possible to show how the prototype will be used in a working environment, which demonstrates the smart garment’s possible uses in a heavy industry environment," explains researcher Riikka Matala. The goal of assessment is to make the user a part of the design process and possibly reduce the need for producing expensive (at this stage of development) and time-consuming physical prototypes.

Intelligent garments are being studied as part of the Academy’s PROACT Research Programme

The University of Lapland Department of Textile and Clothing Design, Tampere University of Technology Institute of Fibre Material Science, and University of Kuopio Department of Physiology are participants in the MeMoGa research project. The project is part of the Academy of Finland’s Proactive Computing (PROACT) Research Programme.

Source: Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland)

Explore further: Consumer loyalty driven by aesthetics over functionality

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bridging sensory gap between artificial and real skin

Dec 10, 2014

"Smart" prosthetics still has a long road ahead. In the human, skin-based mechanoreceptors and thermoreceptors gather information streams from the environment but it is not so easy to create artificial skin ...

Nanodot team aims to charge phones in less than a minute

Nov 25, 2014

The world of smartphone users, which is a very large base indeed, is ripe for better battery solutions and an Israel-based company has an attractive solution in store, in the form of nanodot batteries that ...

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

10 minutes ago

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

29 minutes ago

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

1 hour ago

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

Consumer loyalty driven by aesthetics over functionality

17 hours ago

When designing a new car, manufacturers might try to attract consumers with more horsepower, increased fuel efficiency or a lower price point. But new research from San Francisco State University shows consumers' loyalty ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.