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Smart Textiles

Single platform data from Nextiles

Smart fabric technology blends traditional sewing techniques with fibre-based printed circuit boards.

28th April 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  New York

Sports/​Outdoor, Clothing/​Footwear

Nextiles, a New York-based textiles manufacturing start-up backed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is launching its smart thread technology that captures biometric and biomechanics data into the sports and performance market.

The company was founded in 2018 while George Sun, a trained biological and electrical engineer, was finalising his PhD in biomaterials at MIT. While attending MIT’s Media Lab, Sun was recruited to lead the embedded engineering team at sportswear company Puma, with a focus on incorporating sensors into footwear.

Through his work, he was inspired to develop a now-patented technique for sewing sensors directly into fabrics. In its early stages of development, Nextiles was recognised and awarded by MIT to fund further optimisation of the smart fabric technology and was also selected to go through MIT’s accelerator programme.

Nextiles blends traditional sewing techniques with printed circuit boards to make flexible materials with sensors embedded within fabrics. The fabrics allow for complete biomechanic and biometric sensing captured on one platform – no straps, rings, wraps or clunky attachments that only capture partial data.

The process leverages traditional sewing machines and commonly found threads, such as nylon or spandex which are semi-conductive and measure mechanical changes from multiple data points.

Nextiles differentiates its suite of data analytics by providing Newtonian measurements through its fabrics – force, bending, stretching, velocity and pressure – to offer athletes and teams data such as torque, power, fatigue, strain, and more.

© Nextiles

The fabric also captures traditional measurements by combining force data with IMU (inertial measurement unit) technology for direction, speed and distance. The company provides clients with APIs (application programming interfaces) and SDKs (software development kits) to stream data via Bluetooth in real-time and offers the ability for data to be stored locally and in the cloud.

“Modern sewing technology is almost 2,000 years old, but the industry has been overlooked in recent decades because our society believes we maximised its utility,” said Sun. “However, at Nextiles, we are rekindling textile innovation, and more importantly doing it in what was once the sewing capital of the world, New York. One of the reasons we value fabrics over traditional circuit board technologies is our philosophy of building from the bottom-up – thread by thread.”

While Nextiles is leveraging apparel as its first platform, the company sees broad technological applications and is working with several OEMs in various business verticals, such as automotive, military and fitness.

“We’ve seen our technology become incorporated into more than just garments, but as solutions for a variety of inter-related industries,” Sun continued. “If it can be sewn, it can be smart. To date, we have several ongoing projects and collaborations in sports performance, quantifying movement which would otherwise be impossible with camera vision or accelerometers, because we literally form around the 3D complexities of human movement. With that, we’ve also seen interest from OEMs in augmenting their current product offerings by taking their soft-good products and pushing them into the IoT world.”

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