US government seeks Smart ePants contractors for sensor-woven clothing
Defense Department officials are moving ahead in their search for sensor-studded, electric clothing fit for military service members.
The Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems program (yes, ‘Smart ePants’) still is in brainstorming mode.
The government wants a lot out of the pants, including the ability to “sense, store, interpret or react to (and communication) information from their environment,” presumably including a wearer’s biometric information. They would be the ultimate step counter.
A request for information was posted in January and on May 11, it was the subject of an Office of the Director of National Intelligence “proposer’s day” during which a program manager sells contractors on an idea prior to a request for proposal. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity office holds the events.
It is not known what resulted from the meeting or, indeed, if any contractors attended.
Officials see any pants that are developed being strategic tools for civilian first responders and professional athletes, too. A similar idea (similarly named) came out of Canada a decade ago. The Smart-e-Pants wove electrodes in underwear to help prevent bed sores on patients.
They are uninterested in new ways to snap, strap or pocket electronics, nor do they want primarily passive systems. Their focus largely is on ways to weave sensor systems into fabric, including audio, video and geolocation tools.
There are also mentions of “scrunchable” batteries and power-generation systems that collect energy chemically (through bodily “excretions”) and kinetically from the wearer’s movement.
They also want systems with built-in actuators that react to data. In a nod to the state of the art of storage, the Defense Department says data transfer systems only need to be flexible if they are physically incorporated into the fabric.
And they want material that performs and feels like off-the-shelf cloth