4th quarter 2005
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Global market for smart fabrics and interactive textiles, 4th quarter 2005
published in Issue 63, 4th quarter 2005
In 2004 the global market for electrically enabled smart fabrics and interactive textile (SFIT) technologies was worth US$248.0 mn. By 2008 it is expected to be worth US$485.6 mn, representing a compound annual growth rate of 18%. SFIT technology has advanced significantly in recent years. Novel polymers, when integrated into textiles, provide a range of interactive properties such as electrical conductivity, ballistic resistance and biological protection. In the future, there will be a need for even more materials whose properties alter in response to external stimuli.
So far, the number of applications for SFIT which have made a commercial impact is disappointingly few—apart from electrically heated seat kits, which have been a major success. End uses that have proved successful tend to be restricted to smaller markets such as luxury sportswear and novelty outerwear. However, growth in demand is expected in the case of clothing with built-in electronic storage and communication capabilities, and for fabrics which provide electromagnetic shielding.
Owing to the diverse nature of the technology employed, the industry has become characterised by a variety of strategic alliances and partnerships. Competition is therefore weak, and is likely to remain so in the short term. Factors inhibiting industry growth include the high price of finished articles—which is a consequence of the high cost of research and marketing—and a shortage of research funding. Research effort tends to be driven mainly by government and military interests and, to some extent, by the medical sector. Industrial growth is also being inhibited by a lack of industry standards, which is hampering communication and technological progress.