IARPA Seeks Advanced Smart Textile Systems

From Homeland Security Today

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is seeking information regarding innovative approaches to enhance the performance of Advanced Smart Textile (AST) systems with an emphasis on individual component integration.

The military, first responders (police/firefighters/emergency medical technicians (EMTs)) and professional athletes alike desire electronics that can help keep people safe by sensing, processing and communicating information on individuals’ location and physical surroundings (audio and video recording). Integration of these capabilities into textiles for greater capability, comfort and convenience has long been envisioned, free of uncomfortable, bulky, rigid devices strapped to their bodies. 

AST research is a burgeoning new field where fabrics are designed to adapt and change their functionality in response to changes in their external environment or user input. Unlike passive smart textiles (PST) such as Gore-TexTM which rely on their physical structure to function, ASTs employ energy to power built-in sensors and/or actuators that sense, store, interpret or react to information from their environment.

IARPA’s Request for Information (RFI) seeks innovative approaches to improve the effective performance limits of AST integrated systems and their components. In order to be considered responsive, the proposed technologies must perform the intended purpose of the component or system described by the list below, and must also be flexible and stretchable enough to incorporate into garments with no significant change in comfort, style or performance of the clothing article (i.e., no visually evident rigid components). ASTs capable of performing one or more of the listed component requirements that do not use electricity are also of interest. 

AST Components of Interest 

  1. Sensors: Audio, video, and geolocation. (State of health and molecular sensors are not considered responsive); 
  2. Power Sources: Possible technologies include, but are not limited to, batteries, supercapacitors, and thermal, kinetic or chemical energy harvesters that use their surroundings (such as body heat or excretion) as an energy source; 
  3. Computation and Data Storage: Microprocessors, I/O buses and data storage devices; 
  4. Data Transfer: Systems capable of transferring data from an AST to a storage or computation device. Data transfer systems do not need to be bendable or stretchable, so long as they are not meant to be physically incorporated into the AST; 
  5. Wires and Interconnects: Electrically conductive materials that enable connection between AST components in a system; and 
  6. Haptics: On/off or intensity regulation devices (i.e. switches or dials) that indicate device status to the wearer by changing shape, size, vibration, or producing some other discernible user response. 

Responses are of particular interest to IARPA where the components described have been successfully incorporated into textiles, where components have been integrated into an entire AST system (i.e. includes one or more sensors connected to data computation and an energy source required for operation), and/or is proven to be flexible, stretchable or washable by some independent testing criteria. Technologies capable of function for any time period are of interest, but longer periods are preferred. Desired operating times range from ten minutes to eight hours. 

IARPA has titled the project Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems (SMART e-PANTS). Responses to the RFI are due no later than 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, 31 January 2022.

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