The integration of wearable technology with textiles and clothing is charting a new territory of smart fabrics. With the technology having made vast advances in material sciences and nanotechnology in recent years, the market for smart fabrics has opened up to abundant exciting opportunities. The continued miniaturization of electronics, along with embedding sensors and conducting yarns, is further expanding the potential of smart fabrics. Smart fabrics offer wide range of functionalities such as simultaneous monitoring of various vital signs of the wearer and providing control of various physiological functions, in real time. In addition, they are being designed to perform a variety of amazing functions for wearers ranging from disease treatment and providing protection in hazardous conditions to monitoring fitness and enhancing athletic performance.

Scientists are experimenting with a number of textile materials for developing smart fabrics with a broad range of capabilities in end-use industries. Teeming with immense possibilities, the smart fabrics market is set for an impressive growth ahead. As per a report by Transparency Market Research (TMR), the global market is projected to rise at a 19.6% CAGR from 2017 to 2022 and reach a valuation of US$5.5 billion by the end of the forecast period.

Which are the major applications areas and which product type is projected to witness substantial uptake?

Fueled by developments in sensor and data communication technologies, smart fabrics are finding extensive applications in diverse areas. Major areas of applications are healthcare, sports, automotive, transportation, protection/military, home and architecture, and fashion and fitness.

Based on product, various types of smart fabrics are active smart fabrics, passive smart fabrics, and ultra-smart fabrics. These product types vary in manner of response to stimuli. Passive smart fabrics are characterized by their ability to sense to variety of environmental conditions, but are not conditioned to respond to them. These types are likely to witness vast uptake in the coming years, fueled by being extensive demanded among wearers several end-use industries such as the healthcare and medical. The segment is projected to rise at a CAGR of 17.2% during the forecast period, according to TMR.

Creating highly conducting yarns is one of the key trends expanding the potential of the smart fabrics market. Supreme Corporation, North Carolina-based prominent manufacturer of high-technology textiles, in September this year developed VOLT Smart Yarns, a highly conductive yarn for making next-generation smart fabrics. Each yarn is made of a number of ultra-thin wires and can offer conductivity to the tune of 1.9 Ohms per meter. The innovative yarn can be woven into smart fabric to perform several functionalities, such as heating, controlling switches in wearable, and also can be turned into touch and impact sensors. Potential applications can be in making police body armor.

Which regions are predicted to provide lucrative avenues for growth in the foreseeable future?

The application of smart fabrics will find numerous promising prospects in regions such as North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific except Japan (APEJ). Of these, North America will rise to the dominant position, driven by the fast pace of technological advancements in materials sciences and nanotechnology. The regional market for smart fabrics is projected to rise at an impressive CAGR of 18.5% during the forecast period. Significant thrust by governments in several major countries of the region and increased collaboration among technology and apparel companies are prominent factors expected to accentuate the regional market. The market is also likely to get a robust boost from a number of current research and development activities in universities.

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