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Smart Textile 101 – What is it, Its Potential Application and Future Trends

Textiles are one of the most fundamental components of our day-to-day lives. They are used in a wide variety of products, including clothing, containers, carpeting, and many others. In order to ensure their functionality, every fabric is carefully selected based on its unique construction and properties. In most cases, however, the textiles used serve only one purpose. What if textiles had added value? For example, a piece of clothing can be embedded with fabrics capable of monitoring the heart rate and transmitting medical alerts to health care providers. In light of the rapid development of artificial intelligence, it only makes sense that textiles and intelligence should be integrated. Smart textiles are fabrics that provide users with additional benefits beyond the traditional utility of fabrics (Barrera, 2022). By adapting to their environment, they react and respond to their surroundings (Barrera, 2022). It is often possible for them to communicate ambient circumstances and to detect and process the wearer’s state (Barrera, 2022). In these devices, a variety of inputs and outputs are used, including electrical, thermal, mechanical, chemical, magnetic, etc. (Barrera, 2022). In a nutshell, they are comprised of simple computer systems with five fundamental functions: sensors, data processing, actuators, storage, and communication (Barrera, 2022). However, the integration of digital components must be compatible with clothing functions such as comfort, durability, and resistance (Barrera, 2022).


Smart textiles come in many varieties. Smart textiles can be classified into two categories: aesthetic smart textiles and performance smart textiles. As its name implies, aesthetic smart textiles focus on enhancing the aesthetic appeal of textiles by using technology. This can be achieved by incorporating light-emitting components into clothing or bright gowns. It is possible to classify performance smart textiles into three categories based on their performance: passive, active, and ultra smart (Barrera, 2022). A passive intelligent textile is an early generation of smart textiles that detect external circumstances, such as UV-protective clothing, conductive fibers, and so on (Barrera, 2022). As passive smart textiles merely have sensors, they can only detect their surroundings (UniformMarket, 2021). It is sometimes called the “first generation” of intelligent textiles, passive smart fabrics are able to perform functions beyond those of standard textiles (UniformMarket, 2021). Passive materials, however, do not typically adapt to information they sense. Hence, the cloth remains unchanged despite changes in environmental conditions (UniformMarket, 2021). For example, clothing designed to control body temperature can evaporate sweat, but is not designed to actively create a cooling effect. In the second generation of smart textiles, active intelligent textiles contain both sensors and actuators (UniformMarket, 2021). Among their features are the ability to support shape memory, maintain a chameleon effect, regulate temperature, resist water, heat fabric, and more (UniformMarket, 2021). Sensors and actuators allow the intelligent material to detect touch and temperature, as well as analyze and interpret a variety of environmental data (UniformMarket, 2021). There is a third generation of smart textiles referred to as ultrasmart textiles (UniformMarket, 2021). In addition to sensing disparate data types, this advanced type can forecast and correct external conditions without the need for pre-tuning (UniformMarket, 2021). The built-in microcomputer in such textiles works like a brain. Some examples include spacesuits, I-wear, musical jackets, etc (UniformMarket, 2021).


Smart textiles have a wide range of applications. It is crucial to regulate body temperature in professions like law enforcement, military, and athletics, among others. Instead of layering and worrying about breathability, smart fabrics adapt to changes in temperature fluidly. In the medical field, developers are developing textiles that can monitor heart rate, dispense medication, and even transmit immediate notifications if the wearer falls (UniformMarket, 2021). Movement data can also be collected over time and in a realistic context for medical purposes in children (UniformMarket, 2021). MIT Media Lab researchers have created smart textiles that can be designed to fit the user’s body comfortably and tightly, enabling very precise pressure sensor data that can be used to analyze and classify the wearer’s postures and movements (Conner-Simons, 2021).

Looking Ahead

In recent years, the smart textiles industry has grown rapidly. Sales of Smart and Interactive Textiles are expected to grow by 25.88% from 2022 to 2032 (Future Market Insights Global and Consulting Pvt. Ltd., 2022). By 2032, the market value of Smart and Interactive Textiles is expected to reach US$ 26.4 Bn (Future Market Insights Global and Consulting Pvt. Ltd., 2022). One of the major trends in the market is the increasing demand for smart fabrics as leisurewear. During the forecast period, consumers are also spending more on leisure products due to their increasing disposable income (The future of the Smart Textiles Industry (2020-2025): Key trends, leading segments, major players 2020). In the near future, we will see more researchers and designers advancing the field of “smart” fabrics (The future of the Smart Textiles Industry (2020-2025): Key trends, leading segments, major players 2020). The advent of “smart” fabrics will forever change how we live, work, and go about our daily lives.


Barrera, T. (2022, June 27). Smart textiles in fashion: What they are, types & exciting examples. The Tech Fashionista. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from

Conner-Simons, A. (2021, March 31). Tactile textiles sense movement via touch. MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from

Future Market Insights Global and Consulting Pvt. Ltd. (2022, August 8). Smart and interactive textiles market to thrive at a CAGR of 25.88% during 2022-2032: Future market insights, inc.. GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from,to%20reach%20US%24%2026.4%20Bn.

Markets, R. and. (2020, May 14). The future of the Smart Textiles Industry (2020-2025): Key trends, leading segments, major players. The Future of the Smart Textiles Industry (2020-2025): Key Trends, Leading Segments, Major Players. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from

UniformMarket. (2021, October 30). The future of uniforms: Smart fabrics. The Uniform Magazine. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from 


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