Intel Researchers Explore Making Adaptive Computer Systems that Can Be Worn Like Comfy Clothes

The research arm of the intelligence community could soon develop next-generation electronic garments that physically detect and adapt to the physical condition and environment of each user, and that can process and transmit decision-making data about their whereabouts.

in a Information request Released this week, the Advanced Intelligence Research Projects Activity expressed its goal of accelerating the creation of ELEGANT PANTS—Or Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems— for national security officials, first responders, professional athletes, and others who work in high-stress environments.

“Desired operating times range from ten minutes to eight hours,” officials wrote in the notice.

This search for SMART e-PANTS represents the first IARPA research company to investigate textile-based computer systems, Nextgov confirmed on Friday.

Based on conversations with their CI partners, IARPA officials learned that law enforcement, military, and first responders are seeing an increase in the volume of technologies they must carry on the job, such as body cameras, gadgets contact and location tracking systems. Like many IARPA efforts, an organization official explained, SMART e-PANTS is an example of an effort inspired by a program manager’s “creative thinking” to address CI capacity gaps.

Tech-driven garments that don’t require bulky, rigid devices strapped to people’s bodies “have long been imagined,” officials noted at the RFI.

But now, there is the “burgeoning new field” of active smart textiles research, or AST, that could make it happen. That realm involves manufacturing fabrics that can “adapt and change their functionality in response to changes in” environments or movements of their users, the officials wrote. While passive smart textiles rely on their basic structures to function, ASTs use energy to power embedded components such as sensors and actuators that can store, interpret, or react to captured information.

Recently, there have been some experiments that involve transferring the capabilities of those more rigid portable devices to AST, such as computer components that can be printed on cloth and “squashable” batteries.

“However, to transfer this research to AST products, revolutionary new materials and manufacturing techniques are needed to develop textile-friendly system components that look like garments rather than rigid structures,” the officials wrote. “This RFI seeks innovative approaches to improve the effective performance limits of AST embedded systems and their components.”

Although equipped with advanced technological elements, SMART e-PANTS envisioned in the future would essentially look like normal clothing.

The IARPA notice lists six components the unit is interested in incorporating into the ASTs. They include:

  • Sensors that capture audio, video and geolocation information.
  • Energy sources such as batteries, supercapacitors, or energy harvesters, which use body heat or excretion as a source of energy.
  • Microprocessors and other devices used for computing and data storage.
  • Data transfer systems.
  • Cables to allow connections between AST elements.
  • Haptics that indicate “the state of the device to the user by changing shape, size, vibration, or producing some other perceptible response from the user.”

Of particular interest to the agency are RFI responses regarding the incorporation of such components into a single textile or a complete AST system, or technology components that are flexible, stretchable, or washable, and that can be evaluated by independent testing.

Ultimately, this advisory marks a move by the organization to explore whether technological barriers to creating AST can be overcome, and whether researchers are interested and capable of driving such a paradigm shift for IC, said the official from IARPA. Nextgov on Friday. The results of the RFI will help determine if an official research program should be formed.

Interested entities that can support this innovation plan are invited to submit their ideas before January 31st.

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