Connecting with e-textiles: Find the box!

July 12, 2019 //By James Hayward
e-textiles
Commercial efforts around electronic textiles have been prominent for at least 25 years, starting with early patents and then early products throughout the 1990s.

Electronic components including batteries, transistors/microprocessors, antennae for communication and so on, have all been demonstrated in a textile format, and examples of these are included in IDTechEx’ latest research report "E-Textiles 2019-2029: Technologies, Markets and Players".

The majority of these demonstrations are a one-off proof of concept, and certainly not commercially mature enough for wider deployment. Therefore, as nearly all e-textile products will need these components, commercial options today typically include traditional rechargeable batteries and housed PCBs containing the other essential electronic components. The result is that these components need to be housed somewhere in the e-textile product, and hence it is typically possible to "find the box" which contains these components.

This electronic box can potentially be a good solution to the challenge of washing. Typically, e-textile products can be sold with multiple versions of the garment element and a single box to fit all of them. Then the box can be removed for washing and replaced onto copies of the garment element, just as would be the case for a smartwatch or chest strap. This requires a replaceable, reliable, durable and fool-proof connector option, for which traditional snap fasteners or magnetic versions are typically preferred. As our report shows, the industry has finally started to converge towards some design standards after years of divergent approaches.
However, the case persists that the presence of these boxes remains a barrier towards increasingly widespread adoption. The boxes can be impractical, uncomfortable, unattractive, and therefore an unwelcome, if necessary, hindrance to the overall product.


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