By Mark Majewski

Last month, we launched intelliWEAR—a wearables and smart textiles accelerator program and Leadership Council modeled after our highly successful intelliPACK program for smart packaging and connected retail.

If you are pursuing product development or research related to wearables and smart textiles, if you want to integrate such technology into your product line, or if you are part of the traditional supply chain for textiles and want to understand what’s next, we have a seat for you at the table.

Why has the intelliFLEX Innovation Alliance placed its bets with smart textiles and wearables as the next key industry sector to support?

  • Most of us wear textiles and some kind assistive device almost every minute of every day. Low-tech garments and wearables like the classic wristwatch, eyeglasses or hearing aid are being supplanted by smartwatches, smart jewelry, fitness trackers, skin patches, hearables, medical devices, smart clothing.
  • Textiles are all around us in cars, airplanes, home furnishings, interior design elements and more, creating substantial opportunities for interaction through electronic textile applications.
  • Industrial applications in our ecosystem include bomb disposal suits and other first-responder gear, uniforms and gear for pilots, safety gear for remote and risky jobsites like oil and gas and mining, and defence.
  • We have already seen applications such as haptic controls and prosthetics.

Multibillion-dollar opportunity

Many of these wearables already use printable and stretchable electronics, often in combination with traditional electronics that you wouldn’t immediately associate with smart textiles. In other words, there is a lot commonality within our existing supply chain ecosystem.

In its applications and technologies report earlier this year, Research and Markets dubbed the textiles part of this equation the “4th industrial revolution for the textiles and fashion industry worth over US$100 billion by 2025.” IDTechEx, meanwhile, expects the “increasingly diverse market for wearable devices to reach over US$150 billion annually by 2017.”

A better question, therefore, is how could we not put our efforts behind this industry sector.

Over the summer, we reached an agreement with members of the Smart Textile and Wearables Innovation Alliance (STWIA), an informal, grass-roots group facilitated by the National Research Council of Canada, to join intelliFLEX.

Our intelliWEAR roadshow

With this broader membership base in the market space, we launched intelliWEAR. Its goal is to bring together effective supply chain stakeholders to create awareness, educate, and facilitate the broad adoption of solutions enabled by printable, flexible or hybrid electronics for sports, fashion, healthcare and industrial applications.

We held two events, one in Toronto and one in Vancouver, to kick things off and form the intelliWEAR Leadership Council that will manage the program.

We are pleased to report that these two events attracted participation from across the ecosystem, from startups, to multinationals and leading academic and government research organizations. These included Awake Labs, Be Wear Wearable Technology, Centennial College, CTT Group, Jannatec Technologies, lululemon athletica, Myant, NRC, Push, RFID Canada, Simon Fraser University, TELUS Health, Plantiga, OXC, EPIC Semiconductor and Xerox Research Centre of Canada.

These organizations and others who have jumped on board with us will define the direction and activities of intelliWEAR going forward.

And there is much work to be done. In roundtable discussions, attendees discussed roadblocks for sector growth, challenges around product development and prototyping, manufacturing scale-up, securing growth capital and accessing global markets.

If these sound familiar, they are—such challenges are shared across our ecosystem and our membership. intelliFLEX programs are designed to help our Members overcome—that is why we are here.

What’s next? Join us October 24 in Toronto

For this industry sector, we believe such challenges can be substantively addressed with the creation of a Smart Textile and Wearables Advanced Manufacturing Institute.

At our AGM in the spring, our members gave us a mandate to pursue this institute concept, as well as a Flexible and Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Institute.

Determining how best to advance both these institute proposals are the chief items on the agenda for our annual Sector Development Leadership Council, which is convening on October 24 in Toronto at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada.

Now is the time to get involved. STWIA members who have not done so are encouraged to join intelliFLEX and be part of intelliWEAR. Membership earns you that seat at the table on October 24.

Stakeholders from across the country and beyond are working with us to shape the future of Canada’s smart textile and wearables industry. Don’t be left out – join us and be part of the conversation.

You can join intelliFLEX at any time by submitting a membership application form.

I am always available to discuss at 613-505-4775, ext. 101.

About Us

intelliFLEX, a not-for-profit industry alliance, is a vital partner for accelerating the growth of the printable, flexible and hybrid electronics sector of more than 300 organizations across Canada. Our technologies add intelligence and connect ordinary objects to enable the Internet of Everything.

We unite our growing global membership to build an effective ecosystem of supply chains for flexible, 3D printable electronics, 2D large area printable electronics, wearable electronics, smart textiles and hybrid electronics including related semiconductors, integrated circuits and software.

Our programs accelerate the adoption of these innovations for Smart Packaging and Retail, Intelligent Buildings and Connected Homes, Aerospace and Defence, Automotive and Industrial Applications, Health and Wellness, Intelligent Documents and Wearables.

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