The research arm of the intelligence community may soon develop next-generation electronic clothing that senses and adapts to each wearer’s fitness, and can process and transmit driving data about their whereabouts.
In a request for information published this week, the Advanced Intelligence Research Projects Activity aims to accelerate the making of SMART e-PANTS — or smart, electrically and grid-powered textile systems — for national security officials, first responders, professional athletes and others who work in high-stress settings.
“Desired working times range from ten minutes to eight hours,” the officials wrote in the notice.
This pursuit of SMART e-PANTS represents the first-ever IARPA research project to investigate textile-based computer systems, Nextgov Confirmed on Friday.
Based on conversations with their IC partners, IARPA officials learned that law enforcement, the military, and first responders are seeing an increase in the amount of technologies they must do at work, such as body cameras, communication devices, and location-tracking systems. Like many of IARPA’s efforts, an official from the organization explained, SMART e-PANTS is an example of a program director’s “creative thinking”-inspired endeavor to address IC ability gaps.
RFI officials noted that technology-enhanced clothing that does not require bulky, rigid devices attached to people’s bodies has been “imagined for a long time.”
But now, there is a “burgeoning new field” of active smart textiles, or AST, research that could make it a reality. This field includes manufacturing fabrics that can “adapt and change their functions in response to changes” in the wearer’s environments or their movements, the officials wrote. While passive smart textiles rely on their infrastructure to function, ASTs use energy to power embedded components such as sensors and actuators that can save, interpret, or interact with captured information.
Recently, some experiments have emerged involving transferring the capabilities of those more rugged wearable devices to ASTs – such as computer components that can be printed on fabric and “erasable” batteries.
“To transfer this research to AST products, revolutionary new materials and fabrication techniques are needed to develop fabric-friendly system components that resemble clothing rather than rigid structures,” the officials wrote. “This RFI explores innovative ways to improve the effective performance limits of AST’s integrated systems and components.”
Although equipped with advanced technological elements, the SMART e-PANTS envisioned below the line will look basically like regular clothes.
The IARPA Notice lists six components the unit is interested in incorporating into the ASTs. They include:
- Sensors that capture audio and video information and geolocation.
- Energy sources such as batteries, supercapacitors, or energy harvesters, which use body heat or excretions as an energy source.
- Microprocessors and other devices used for computation and data storage.
- data transmission systems.
- Wires to enable connections between AST elements.
- Haptic haptics refers to “the state of the device to the wearer by changing its shape, size, vibration, or producing some other recognizable user response.”
Of particular interest to the agency are RFI responses regarding incorporation of these components into a single fabric or entire AST system, or technology components that are flexible, stretchable, or washable—and can be assessed by independent testing.
This notice ultimately signals a move by the organization to explore whether technological barriers to creating ASTs can be overcome, and whether researchers are interested and able to drive such a paradigm shift to IC, the IARPA official said. Nextgov on Friday. The results of the RFI will help determine whether a formal research program should be formed.
Interested entities that can support this innovation plan are invited to submit their ideas by January 31st.