The trend of our time – smart fabrics

This time we will look at a trend that is being further developed in America in the textile company Nextiles. The company combines traditional sewing techniques with printed circuit boards to create smart fabric that enables biomechanical and biometric sensing for measurement and performance assessment. Currently, Nextiles has shifted its research to a production scale.

Smart fabric is created by weaving threads with sensors into the fabric, and these sensors are capable of instantly capturing all biometric and biomechanical movements of the person wearing the fabric, including everything related to motion and physiological measurements.

The data is collected through a Bluetooth network to an SDK (Software Development Kit) application in real-time and can be instantly monitored and analyzed within the application or in the cloud.

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How does smart fabric work?

The textiles produced by Nextiles mainly consist of two main components: fabric with woven sensor threads, also known as e-textiles, and a connected central module. The sensor thread woven with conductive yarn corresponds to a printed circuit board (PCB), where the conductive traces are replaced with sensor threads. The threads are made of polyester, copper, stainless steel, silver, chrome, and a mixture of stainless steel yarn.


By weaving the threads into PCB patterns, Nextiles creates piezoresistive sensors that measure electrical resistance based on the mechanical strain applied to the fabric with sensors. The measurements occur whenever the fabric with sensors undergoes bending, stretching, or other deformations. The degree of deformation alters the electrical resistance, which is measured by the module. The module then transfers the data to an application for further processing. The module is the only non-woven component of the set and can be easily detached and sewn onto the sensors for convenient removal before washing.

Nextiles, based in New York, was founded in 2018. This innovative materials science company combines flexible electronics with textile goods and creates a data analytics platform that measures human performance. The company merges patented fabric-based sewing technology with data insights to quantify performance forces, range of motion, and micro-movements.

Not only Nextiles provides real-time performance analysis through motion capture from compression garments for the athletic industry but also has the support of organizations such as the National Science Foundation, Air Force, Drive by DraftKings, MSG Sports, and the NBA. With this support, Nextiles is poised to revolutionize human performance analysis for other sports and industrial sectors.

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Further Applications of E-Textiles

Supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Air Force, studies have enabled Nextiles to realize that even small voltages from the skin can be captured with high precision through highly conductive fabric materials. Voltage on the skin monitored through e-textiles (referred to as EXG sensors) opens up new possibilities for studies involving EKG (heart), EMG (muscles), EEG (brain), and EOG (eye). Applications include physical fatigue and cognitive load measurements, as well as comfortable and long-term performance monitoring.

As pioneers in these new circuits, Nextiles is currently developing compression sleeves for the knee and arm, as well as sensor-equipped socks. While they consider their smart sportswear as their initial project, they are already conducting further research for broad technological applications in the automotive industry, military, and healthcare sectors.



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Michaela Krňáková
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