I gather that today’s soldier (aka, warfighter) is carrying as many batteries as weapons. Apparently, the average soldier carries a couple of kilos worth of batteries and cables to keep their various pieces of equipment operational. The UK’s Centre for Defence Enterprise (part of the Ministry of Defence) has announced that this situation is about to change as a consequence of a recently funded research project with a company called Intelligent Textiles. From Bob Yirka’s April 3, 2012 news item for physorg.com,
To get rid of the cables, a company called Intelligent Textiles has come up with a type of yarn that can conduct electricity, which can be woven directly into the fabric of the uniform. And because they allow the uniform itself to become one large conductive unit, the need for multiple batteries can be eliminated as well.
The company says it has found a way to weave the conductive yarn into virtually all parts of the uniform: vest, shirt, backpack, helmet, even gloves or the interactive parts of weapons. Different pieces of the uniform can then be connected via plug-and-play connections when the soldier dresses for battle, … They say they are currently also working on a keyboard that can also be integrated into a uniform to allow for interaction with a small computer that will also be carried as part of the uniform.
Field trials are scheduled for next month and uniforms made with e-textiles are expected to begin being worn by actual soldiers over the next two years.
You can find the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) here, from the CDE’s home page,
The Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) is the first point of contact for anyone with a disruptive technology, new process or innovation that has a potential defence application. CDE funds research into novel high-risk, high-potential-benefit innovations sourced from the broadest possible range of science and technology providers, including academia and small companies, to enable development of cost-effective capability advantage for UK Armed Forces.
CDE is the entry point for new science and technology providers to defence, bringing together innovation and investment for the defence and security markets.
Here’s a link to a video featuring an employee from Intelligent Textiles discussing their new product and the joys of applying for funds from the CDE.
I did try to find out more about Intelligent Textiles. While they do have a website, it is currently under construction, here’s an excerpt from their home and only page,
Welcome to this very special first glimpse of a new 21st century world. A wonderful world of soft, safe, stylish, comfortable, colourful fabrics which not only do all the traditional fabric things but which discreetly and unobtrusively include a host of additional attributes.
The new world of Intelligent Textiles is limited only by your vision and needs, and the enthusiasm by innovative manufacturers to embrace a new world.
Building on the best of the past, see an amazing high tech future using traditional techniques and materials with the addition of the Intelligent Textiles globally patented technology.
Even after reading the news item, watching the video clip, and reading the information on Intelligent Textile’s home page, I don’t really understand the benefit of the technology. It’s nice that cables are being eliminated but it sounds as if at least one battery is still needed (and probably one backup just in case something goes wrong) and they have plans to include a computer in the future. Are they eliminating five pounds of equipment and replacing it with one pound’s worth? If they include a computer in the future, how much weight will that add?