US Government seeks Smart ePants contractors for sensor-woven garments

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Department of Defense officials are moving forward in their search for sensor-based electric suits suitable for military service members.

The Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems (yes, ‘Smart ePants’) program is still in brainstorming mode.

The government wants a lot from the pants, including the ability to “sense, store, interpret, or react to (and communicate) information from their surroundings,” 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 a Director of National Intelligence “proposant’s day” in which a program manager sells entrepreneurs on an idea before a call for tenders. The office of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects activity organizes the events.

It is unclear what resulted from the meeting or, in fact, if any contractors attended.

Officials consider all of the pants developed to also be strategic tools for civilian first responders and professional athletes. A similar idea (of the same name) came out of Canada ten years ago. The Smart-e-Pants have woven electrodes into the underwear to help prevent pressure sores in patients.

They aren’t interested in new ways to break, attach, or poach electronics, nor do they want primarily passive systems. They mainly focus on ways to integrate sensor systems into the 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 motion.

They also want systems with built-in actuators that react to data. In a nod to the state of the art in storage, the Department of Defense says data transfer systems only need to be flexible if they are physically integrated into the fabric.

And they want a material that works and looks like ready-made fabric

Article topics

biometric data | biometric sensors | biometrics | data collection | Department of Defense | military | research and development | portable

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