Textiles as a meta-wearable: Studies on textiles as an information infrastructure

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Park, Sungmee
Jayaraman, Sundaresan
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Joseph Marie Jacquard (circa 1801) created the world’s first automatic binary information processor – the Jacquard mechanism. This invention in textile manufacturing was instrumental in bringing about the second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Information Processing Revolution. The significant advancements in sensing, computing and communications technologies have given birth to the paradigm of pervasive information processing. There is a need for convergence of these advanced enabling technologies with textiles to transform the traditionally passive, yet pervasive, textiles into an interactive intelligent information infrastructure for the demanding end-user and facilitate pervasive and personalized mobile information processing. The primary objective of the research is to design and develop a personal wearable information infrastructure – known initially as the Sensate Liner and then as the Wearable Motherboard – that would be comfortable like any garment and realize the paradigm of “fabric is the computer.” Yet another objective is to demonstrate the versatility of the Wearable Motherboard paradigm through applications and develop the concept of textiles as a meta-wearable. In this dissertation, a structured methodology for product design and development in a concurrent engineering environment has been proposed. A novel technology for creating a full-fashioned woven garment on a loom has been developed, which represents a pioneering contribution to textile engineering. The concept of “interconnections” in a textile structure has been proposed to seamlessly route information from sensors or devices in any part of the fabric to another through the yarns in the fabric thus creating a flexible textile-based information infrastructure analogous to the traditional printed circuit board (PCB). An interconnection technology has been developed to create interconnects or electrical junctions in textile structures. The concept of Textillography for automating the creation of large-scale interconnects in textile structures has been proposed and defined. The novel concept of a “Wearable Motherboard” has been proposed. It is a fabric-based information infrastructure, which serves as a flexible and wearable framework into which sensors and devices can be plugged making it similar to a motherboard in an electronic device. This represents true convergence between electronics and textiles giving birth to the field of electronic or “e-textiles.” Real-world instantiations of the Wearable Motherboard – for physiological monitoring (medical, sports, and infants) and in-fabric information processing network – demonstrate the value of the Wearable Motherboard as a platform for personalized mobile information processing and lay the foundation for the next generation of adaptive and responsive textile structures. Fabric-based sensors have been designed and successfully tested to address the shortcomings of gel-based sensors currently used for physiological monitoring. The concept of textiles as a meta-wearable has been realized. It is the bridging catalyst between the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Internet of People (IoP). The vision for the new field of interactive or i-textiles has been defined; the advancements realized on the various building blocks during the course of this research have brought this exciting vision closer to reality as seen in the range of commercial products in the marketplace.
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