What are smart textiles, and what are they used for?

What are smart textiles?

Smart textiles are fabrics with technological components that perform different wearer functions. Functions can vary, but examples of use are garments that can heat, cool or change color. 

Smart textiles can be divided into three categories:

  • Passive smart textiles
  • Active smart textiles
  • Ultra smart textiles or very smart textiles

All three categories sense external conditions, but active and ultra-smart textiles can react to conditions. And Ultra-smart textiles are unique in that they can also respond and adapt to external conditions.

So what does that mean for the mere mortals not super into the world of smart textiles?    

Well, passive smart textiles, or as it sometimes is referred to, the first generation of smart textiles, give a higher function for the wearer but don't adapt to you as a wearer. An example is a garment that monitors the wearer's heart rate, but the clothing does nothing more with the data collected.

Active smart textiles take it even further and react to what's happening. For example, this could be a garment monitoring the wearer's heart rate but beeping and vibrating when the wearer reaches a certain heart rate level.

Ultra smart textiles are sophisticated with monitoring, reacting to the collected data, and adapting the function depending on the wearer's need. Imagine a garment monitoring heart rate, alerting if it deteriorates, and giving cardiac massage and restarting the heart would it stop.

Different types of smart textiles

Though smart textiles, per definition, only need to fill a function of any sort, most meaning the first generation of passive smart textiles doesn't need any electricity at all. In fact, passive smart textiles have been around for a while, and some products, such as Gore-Tex breathable products, have been widely used. Still, most associate smart fabric with the second generation of smart textiles with active and ultra smart textiles and their functions.

To explain these types of smart textiles in simple terms, a printed circuit board, or PCB for short, sends signals that travel through conductive materials inside the garment to sensors that create a function for the wearer.  

There are different ways to send the signals from the PCB to the sensors characterizing the looks and feel of the garment, with the different types being;

  • Woven  
  • Knitted 
  • Embroidered
  • Sewn
  • Laced
  • Spluttered
  • Printed 
  • Heat transfer is gluing conductive materials on the fabric

Smart textiles build-up

Most smart textiles, again with the exception of some first-generation smart textiles, need five components to function; 

  • Fabric
  • Conductive material of some sort to lead electrical signals
  • Sensors
  • PCB or connector as it often is referred to, especially in combination with a battery pack
  • Battery (these are often packed together with the PCB)

What are smart textiles used for?

Smart textiles can be seen in many fields, especially the medical, military, and sports industries pushing further development for new and improved applications.

Smart textiles can be used to monitor infants' health, medical conditions, and diseases, as well as monitor general health, helping doctors and health professionals follow and understand their patients and how their treatments progress.

In the military, it has been used as a bullet wounds detector, collecting data on the wearer and their environment, reporting to headquarters, and warning about potential dangers such as chemical weapon attacks.

In the sports industry, it has been used for tracking professional football players and, with the data collected, understanding the player and enhancing their performance, recognizing injuries before they happened, and recovering after injuries.

Examples of smart textiles on the market today

There are already plenty of garments on the market ready to be used and made for different purposes, and here are only a handful of them.

Wearablex Yoga Pants

These yoga pants use haptic feedback to guide you in your yoga poses.

Hexoskin tops

Hexoskin tops track physiological health and your fitness journey and visualize it in real-time on both mobile and desktop.

Cute Circuits Hugshirt

These unique shirts use haptic telecommunications simulating touch. In other words, make it possible to send hugs remotely in real-time to loved ones.

Smart textile challenges

Though plenty of examples of products are out on the market and even more genius applications, the second and third generations of smart textiles face two major challenges: ease of use and price.

Though there are several ways of leading electric signals in fabric, a perfect solution has yet to be found to attach the PCB. Companies have the alternative to sewing the PCB to the garment, risking it breaking in laundry, or creating a way to remove the PCB before laundry, making the garment inhibiting the easiness in everyday life of the user. All of the solutions today are challenging to scale up due to time-consuming manufacturing adding to the price for the customers.

Where LumeoTech comes in

LumeoTech specializes in creating connectors for smart textile garments solving both challenges the industry faces. The unique feature of LumeoTechs connectors is that they attach and detach in seconds, solving the issue of easiness for both customers and manufacturers, minimizing the time to produce the garment, and cutting the cost.

Want to know more?

Book a meeting to learn more about our connector and see if it would fit your product or development needs here.

Work with us


Buy a demo kit


Book a meeting


Appy for a dev kit
You can work with us in different ways.
Which one do you prefer?
Learn more

Book A Meeting

You know what you want and you want it now?
Book a meeting straight away!


Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.


Chalmers University of Technology

Lumeo Technology AB

Stena Center

412 96 Gothenburg





+46 7603 675 05