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The fingertips of a wireless voltage detection glove illuminates when the wearer’s hand approaches a live cable.   | Photo Credit: Purdue University/Rebecca McElhoe

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Wearables like Google’s Fitbit and Apple Watch are in some sense playing the role of health experts by monitoring heart rates and sleep cycles. Now, our clothes could get smart with a newly developed sewing technology.

Researchers at Purdue University have developed a way to transform cloth materials into smart interfaces that not only connects to smartphones and laptops, but also helps people monitor health status. The smart fabric does not require a battery, and can be powered via Wi-Fi or radio waves.

These ‘smart clothes’ are powered wirelessly through a flexible, silk-based coil sewn on the textile and are laundry resistant, the team described in a study titled ‘Washable, breathable, and stretchable e-textiles wirelessly powered by omniphobic silk-based coils’.

The smart clothes contain miniaturised electronic circuits and sensors, which will enable connection to smartphones, laptops, cars and other machines and “will outperform conventional passive garments”, the team noted. It will also assist in tracking health status and call for help if a user suffers an accident.

Also Read | Smartwatch data can be used to predict underlying illness, study says

The cloth is sprayed with highly hydrophobic molecules that are rendered to become repellent to water, oil, and mud. “These smart clothes are almost impossible to stain and can be used underwater and washed in conventional washing machines without damaging the electronic components sewn on their surface,” the team added.

Additionally, the ultra-thin coating on the clothing makes it flexible, stretchable and breathable as conventional cotton t-shirts, the team noted.

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