From automated communication with a washing machine and intelligent anti-theft protection to vital-sign monitoring – technology has the ability to make textile products “smarter”.
Notably, textiles and clothing are one of the oldest industries and are essential to our everyday life. Whilst our ancestors used garments to protect themselves against environmental impacts, thereby facilitating the highly developed human civilization; textiles and clothing also paved the way for globalization in the shape of the Silk Road, connecting different societies across different continents.
The development of man-made fibers gave access to new possibilities outside of traditional clothing. The past decades have seen advances in technical textiles, enriching a variety of industries with product innovations – here Germany is regarded as an innovation engine and world market leader. From underwear, interior design and lightweight construction facilitating e-mobility, to the rotors of wind power peripheries supporting the energy revolution – even though often invisible, textiles make an important contribution in our lives.
Facilitated by the Internet of Things, textiles evolve with integrated electronic components, triggering the next revolution in textile and clothing technology. Such textile-based products can be summarized under the term of Smart Textiles. Smart Textiles are able to interact with their surroundings and thus actively support the wearer. Especially when equipped with integrated electronic components, Smart Textiles are a significant topic for the future of the textile and garment industry. The booming market for wearables and the Internet of Things indicate the trend for smaller and portable devices. Experts are certain that Smart Textiles will assert their position, in consideration of megatrends such as connectivity, new work, health and individualization, by 2030.
Cyber security is an area of research filled with tension. On one hand, Germany has cutting-edge research that surfaces fascinating and forward-looking projects. On the other hand, products with a large number of security gaps are brought onto the market that may be exploited by attackers without major effort. The knowledge for the development of secure products is however present in Germany: by following basic cyber protection issued by the German Federal Office for Information Security, many products could be realized more securely. Cyber security needs to be seen as an open topic since computer systems can be found in any industry. In the future, due to topics such as Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, cyber security will penetrate all areas of life. This is why informatics and the area of cyber security cannot be seen as an autonomous area anymore, but as the basis of all future developments with the mission to transfer its know-how to all disciplines.
Aiming to take up this approach is the interdisciplinary research project SEKT. Within the project the faculties of the engineering and computer science at the Albstadt-Sigmaringen University of Applied Sciences will link the fields of textile and clothing technology and IT security intensively. To do so, the SEKT project systematically investigates the integration and cyber security of electronic communication systems in smart textile products and develops practice relevant security connects and smart demonstrators.
The main objectives are scientific investigation of the cyber security of smart textile products, transfer of existing security concepts, and development of secure and innovative prototypes. Based on the knowledge gained, recommendations for further action will be derived and course offerings for the textile and garment industry will be developed, thus ensuring intensive interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral knowledge transfer.