New career path for Finnish smart clothing

Monday 18th September 2017

The Smart Clothing 2.0 project led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd creates business opportunities for Finnish smart clothing and services. Research institutes and companies are working together to develop completely new products for the international markets.

For the past decade, major business opportunities have been predicted to be opening up for smart clothing. Technology can be integrated into textiles and clothing enabling simultaneous and real-time monitoring of multiple factors, functional smart adjustments, and the development of a wide range of service concepts for different consumer segments. The development of sensor and data communications technology in particular, will enable significant international breakthroughs.

Smart Clothing 2.0 will identify distinct end-user needs and the latest technological potential. This will help to develop new product and service concepts, working in close collaboration with the business participants. The functionality of the project’s concepts will be tested by VTT and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, while the Emergency Services College will provide their expert opinions on both smart clothing and several service concepts, for example in matters related to accident call outs.

“We are organising an ambitious collaboration network for smart clothing to commercialise Finnish expertise in the booming national and international markets. Ultimately, we will develop genuinely new smart clothing for diverse user groups, be it hikers, top athletes, firefighters, children of all ages, fitters working high on masts, personnel maintaining and installing lifts, or patients recovering in hospitals,” says (left) Project Leader and Principal Scientist, Pekka Tuomaala of VTT.

The project has five business participants, each developing smart clothes and services for their own company. Suunto’s project includes several service concepts for exercise and leisure activities. Inkron will produce printed electronics solutions for textiles. Savox is planning new functionalities, for example for the needs of fire and rescue services. Reima encourages children to move using smart clothing concepts. Wind Controller develops smart clothing solutions and services for the needs of wind turbine fitters and maintenance personnel working in many types of extreme conditions.

“In the Smart Clothing 2.0 project, national spearhead funding is used to support the deepening collaboration across the industry as a whole, and level the path for businesses accessing the international smart clothing markets, currently enjoying strong growth,” said Specialist Jouko Salo from Tekes, the main funding agency for the project. Led by VTT, Smart Clothing 2.0 was launched in June 2017 and will run until December 2018.  In addition to Tekes and business participants (Suunto Oy, Inkron Oy, Savox Oy, Reima Oy ja Wind Controller Oy), the project is funded also by KONE Corporation, LähiTapiola Oy, Image Wear Oy ja Finlayson Oy.

Andy the installation engineer – safe, precision work in challenging conditions
An employee at Hyötytuuli’s Tahkoluoto wind farm, Andy travels to an installation site by boat during an autumn storm. The supervisor monitors Andy’s journey to the installation site and notes his safe arrival. Andy climbs up the tower in pouring raining, but the chilly conditions don’t seem so hard since his smart shoes are equipped with heating elements which keep his feet warm. However, an accelerometer installed in his work jacket detects the extra heat generated by his climb up the tower and a smart heat-detecting application in his smartphone switches off the shoe heating before he becomes too warm. It also sends the functional ventilation gap on the back of this jacket an automatic signal to open. Andy begins installing large bolts in the nacelle (turbine housing). The supervisor monitors Andy’s pulse and respiratory rate. An hour after the installation work, she notices a worrying amount of strain and sends Andy a message urging him to take a short break. Andy takes a break but also notices a smoking cable in the narrow nacelle. A detector installed in the nacelle has already alerted the nearest rescue unit and Andy uses his smart jacket to confirm that he is in good working condition and can section off the threat of fire. Andy and the rescue unit that arrives extinguish the smouldering cable together and the ins tallation work can continue normally.

The Finnish offshore wind developer Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy has inaugurated the 42MW Tahkoluoto wind farm, the world’s first offshore wind farm built for icy conditions.

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