Smart and interactive textiles (also known as smart textiles, smart fabrics and wearable textiles) are fabric products that possess the ability to sense and react to a particular environment or stimuli such as light or heat. This is due to the prevalence of certain electronic devices present in these fabrics. These textiles provide additional functionalities and applicability as compared to conventional textiles and include monitoring, protection, entertainment and medical applications. Smart fabrics serve as building blocks of wearable electronics; these are enabled by the miniaturization of conductive and electronic materials. Smart and interactive textiles are a rapidly emerging field in the textiles industry. These textiles can be used in clothing and fashion segments as well as in the technical textiles industry. Smart textiles have the ability to ‘think for themselves’ due to the integration of smart materials or electronic devices. Most smart fabrics are employed in advanced type of clothing, which is primarily used in safety, protection, fashion and convenience applications. Smart textiles offer immense opportunities and potential in the textiles industry.
The growth of the transportation industry is expected to contribute significantly towards the growing demand for smart and interactive textiles over the forecast period. In addition, the rising consumption of smart textiles in various medical and healthcare applications is also anticipated to boost the growth of the market. However, high prices of the end products of smart and interactive textiles, unlike conventional textiles are expected to slow down the growth of the market. Increasing number of research and development activities for technological and product advancement is anticipated to provide new opportunities for the growth of the market.
Demand for smart and interactive textiles was the largest from the transportation industry, accounting for over 38% of the market share in 2013, primarily due to the presence of large automotive industries in matured regions such as North America and Europe. The demand for smart textiles was also high from military applications, where active intelligent textile systems combined with electronics are used to enhance the performance of combat soldiers as well as save lives. However, the industrial application segment is anticipated to witness the fastest growth during the forecast period due to a rise in the number of industrial activities such as supply chain management and logistics in emerging regions such as Asia Pacific.
Demand for smart and interactive textiles was the largest from developed regions such as Europe and North America due to the presence of several large industries such as transportation, military, and healthcare. Smart textiles are used in a wide range of applications such as medical and healthcare and consumer applications such as basic clothes, sports and fitness fabrics in Europe. North America was the second-largest consumer of smart textiles led by significant consumption of smart textiles in military, consumer and transportation applications. However, Asia Pacific is likely to witness the fastest growth rate, rising at a CAGR of 20.2%, from 2014 to 2020 in the smart textiles market in the near future due to rising number of industrial activities in economies such as China. Increase in the number of industrial activities has led to usage of smart textiles in applications such as conveying/lifting and supply chain process. This trend is projected to continue over the next few years.
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Fibertronic Ltd., Globe Manufacturing Company, LLC, Interactive Wear AG, Outlast Technologies Inc., Textronics Inc, and Toray Industries Inc. are some of major players involved in the smart and interactive textiles industry. The market for smart and interactive textiles is highly fragmented with the combined market share more than ten key companies accounting for less than 30% of the market.