10:55 AM

Stay Connected On The Slopes

A new snowboarding jacket boasts mobile phone control capabilities, in the latest example from the evolving smart-fabric and interactive-textile market.

Sportswear manufacturer O'Neill Europe today in Munich, Germany, unveiled its first wearable electronics product in its 2004/2005 winter collection. The snowboard jacket, dubbed The Hub and jointly designed and developed by Infineon Technologies AG, is strong enough to withstand freezing and harsh environments, the company says.

Woven into The Hub snowboard jacket are electrically conductive fabric tracks that connect the chip module to a fabric keyboard and built-in speakers in the helmet. The chip module contains an MP3 player and Bluetooth capabilities from which the snowboarder can control a mobile phone. When the phone feature is used, the stereo system acts as the headset. The microphone is integrated into the collar of the jacket.

The smart-fabric and interactive-textile market is estimated today at $300 million, with growth potential varying significantly by sector during the next 10 years, according to Venture Development Corp. The Boston research firm says worldwide sales could reach approximately $1 billion for "intelligent textile materials" by 2007.

Infineon said it's working with more than 200 companies from the textile industry, including the Vorwerk Teppichwerke carpet plant in Hamelin, Germany, to develop a prototype "smart carpet."

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