How and why standardization will benefit the e-textile industry: Page 6 of 9

April 14, 2020 // By William G. Wong
In e-textiles, developers spend too much time finding out which component works with which. What the industry needs is a collaborative effort in the electronics and textile industries to work toward common standards.

This e-tex reference model echoes the OSI seven-layer model.
(credit Christian Dalsgaard).

One layer covers standards for yarns and fabrics and the transition between the flexible textile substrate and hard connections point. It's basically to adapt existing flexprint standards for foil to also include textiles. The next layer is the connection layer, where we desperately need a flat magnetic USB-T connector that’s washable and that could be attached to textiles like any other snap fasteners from underwear to outdoor jackets.

On the IoT layer, I want standard electronics modules that can be sliced or snapped to a connector, providing a suitable programming platform with a full Bluetooth BLE/Wi-Fi stack, wireless charging, and a standard I/O bus for sensors based on USB, so that we have an interoperability between the connection layer and the IoT layer. On the care layer, standards for washing and tumble-drying wearables and other textile integrated technology can be defined.

I would also argue for choosing possible areas or ranges of components for standardization carefully. Some are more mature for standardization than others. Soft displaying, as mentioned above, and power are fields where lots of exciting new things are happening. Many companies are working on autonomous harvesting, meaning that the wearer is simultaneously consuming and producing power—power is harvested from the wearer’s movements.

Autonomous harvesting is at a very dynamic stage, where standardization would delay further development and optimization. But in other areas where development is levelling now, like housing or interconnects, standardization would greatly help the whole of the e-textile industry.

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