Over the past 20 years, e-textiles have progressed from an academic curiosity to an important technology platform generating revenue for companies globally. The most prominent products are types of compression apparel, where e-textile features are used to introduce sensing (including heart rate, respiration, motion, ECG, EMG, etc.), to provide heating or cooling, to apply current to muscles and potentially several more interesting new functions.
The application landscape is diverse, both in apparel for other sectors (work wear, military, fashion apparel etc.) and beyond apparel for a variety of sectors including medical, industrial and home textiles. Today, many of the most prominent e-textile brands remain relatively young, driven either by recent start-ups, spin-outs from larger companies lower in the value chain, or generally companies outside of the mass-market consumer sector in either textiles or electronics.
Top brands from the sports apparel and consumer electronics industries are adopting different strategies to investigate and eventually adopt e-textile products. With each passing level of development cycle, e-textile products are increasing in maturity, meaning that the risk and overheads required for a large product launch are gradually being eroded. Growing manufacturing know-how and efficiency means that a mass market order for e-textiles will soon be possible.