Wearable Electronics

Forecasting market growth in electronic textiles


he new version of the IDTechEx report, “E-textiles 2019-2029: Technologies, Markets and Players,” includes brand new data about e-textiles revenue. Many companies have existed for a long time in the industry by making the majority of their revenue from R&D or design contracts, rather than necessarily from product revenue. The main forecast in the report focuses on specific product revenue across different sectors (including biometric monitoring, heating, lighting and other e-textiles), but for the first time, this report includes additional historic data and short term estimates for the total revenues of companies working in the space. James Hayward, principal analyst at

IDTechEx and lead author on the report, says, “Many of the companies in this emerging industry make the majority of their revenue on a project-by-project basis, with the component of consulting and R&D revenue often being more significant than just looking at products sold. In previous years, we have collated data to understand the volumes and revenues from product shipments in e-textiles. In this edition, we expanded on this to include historic data on all revenue from e-textiles companies, as well as representation of the different industries and product types from each player. The result is not only a projection of future opportunity in the space but also a detailed study of the current and short term scenario for the current players in the industry today.”

Many companies continue to investigate this sector, fuelled by a clear long-term vision for the potential around e-textiles. Textile products have a ubiquity which electronics companies can only dream of. Electronic products and their surrounding digital ecosystems that they fuel are the key products for the four largest companies in the world (by market capitalisation, as of 2019). The idea to combine the features of each, providing a comfortable, fashionable, customisable interface between humans

and digital products, creating huge value in the process, is central to the “big picture” thinking of many speculative investors today. However, the industry remains a very long way from this eventuality. Many much more real challenges exist for e-textiles companies today, from optimising supply chain and manufacturing to validating product value in the mind of consumers, through to end of life management of the products once they are sold. Steps are

being taken across these challenges, in investing to consolidate advanced manufacturing in house, pursuing medical approval routes for biometric monitoring after consumer routes have proven unfavourable, and by optimising materials with recycling or disposal in mind. These early steps are critical to establishing real short-term revenue, before developing towards the bigger picture ideas.

Ultra-small nanoprobes could be a leap forward in high-resolution human-machine interfaces


achine enhanced humans – or cyborgs as they are known in science fiction – could be one

step closer to becoming a reality, thanks to new research from the University of Surrey and Harvard University. Researchers have conquered the monumental task of manufacturing scalable nanoprobe arrays small enough to record the inner workings of human cardiac cells and primary neurons. The ability to read electrical activities from cells is the foundation of many biomedical procedures, such as brain activity mapping and neural prosthetics. Developing new tools for intracellular electrophysiology (the electric current running within cells) that push the limits of what is physically possible (spatiotemporal resolution) while reducing invasiveness could provide a deeper understanding of electrogenic cells and their networks in tissues, as well as new directions for human-machine interfaces.

In a paper published by Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and Harvard University detail how they produced an array of the ultra-small U- shaped nanowire field-effect transistor probes for intracellular recording. This incredibly small structure was used to record, with great clarity, the inner activity of primary neurons and other electrogenic cells, and the device has the capacity for multi-channel recordings. Dr Yunlong Zhao from the ATI at the University of Surrey says: “If our medical professionals are to continue to understand our physical condition better and help us live longer, it is important that we continue to push the boundaries of modern science in order to give them the best possible tools to do their jobs. For this to be possible, an intersection between humans and machines is inevitable. “Our ultra-small, flexible, nanowire probes could be a very powerful tool as

they can measure intracellular signals with amplitudes comparable with those measured with patch clamp techniques; with the advantage of the device being scalable, it causes less discomfort and no fatal damage to the cell (cytosol dilation). Through this work, we found clear evidence for how both size and curvature affect device internalisation and intracellular recording signal.” Professor Charles Lieber from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University says: “This work represents a major step towards tackling the general problem of integrating ‘synthesised’ nanoscale building blocks into chip and wafer scale arrays, and thereby allowing us to address the long-standing challenge of scalable intracellular recording. “The beauty of science to many, ourselves included, is having such challenges to drive hypotheses and future work. In the longer term, we see these probe developments adding to our capabilities that

ultimately drive advanced high-resolution brain-machine interfaces and perhaps eventually bringing cyborgs to reality.” Professor Ravi Silva, director of the ATI at the University of Surrey, said: “This incredibly exciting and ambitious piece of work illustrates the value of academic collaboration. Along with the possibility of upgrading the tools we use to monitor cells, this work has laid the foundations for machine and human interfaces that could improve lives across the world.” Dr Yunlong Zhao and his team are

currently working on novel energy storage devices, electrochemical probing, bioelectronic devices, sensors and 3D soft electronic systems. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoc students with backgrounds in energy storage, electrochemistry, nanofabrication, bioelectronics, tissue engineering are very welcome to contact Dr Zhao to explore the opportunities further. Components in Electronics July-August 2019 23

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