Flashes on the Smart Textiles Symposium and the 57th Dornbirn-GFC

7th Smart Textiles Symposium 2018 (September 12-13) at Messequartier, Dornbirn and the 57th Dornbirn-GFC (Global Fibre Congress) jointly organised a networking gala dinner with around 700 participants from 30 countries:

Around 170 participants mainly from Germany, Switzerland and Austria came to the Messequartier Dornbirn, Austria to meet with the smart textiles community 24 lectures on two consecutive days showed the increasing tendency towards a more interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of smart textiles.

Day 1:

The jointly organized 7th Smart Textiles Symposium 2018 (September 12-13) held at Messequartier Dornbirn, Austria and the 57th Dornbirn-GFC attracted around 700 experts from industry and research from 30 different countries.

The former Federal chancellor from Austria, Werner Faymann, urged industry representatives in his opening words to be always one step ahead in the competition and to take advantage of recent market opportunities.

Keynote speaker James Holbery from the USD 90 billion company Microsoft, based in Redmont, USA, gave an insight in Microsoft’s recent activities in printed, textile and flexible electronics and the current focus on creating new user experiences through soft electronics. “We always have to reinvent ourselves in these days of rapid change. We want to bring personal computing to a new level and address the young generation in particular. Interesting about computing is the rapid change we are facing and when we think about IoT and increasing digitization there is a lot more to come.” Following the recent cooperation between Google and Levi’s another gatekeeper is now taking a deeper interest in textiles. James Holbery has been responsible for building up the new Microsoft lab for printed, textile and flexible electronics (PTFE).

Dr Isa Hofmann, moderator of the first day and managing director of a specialized communication agency based in Wiesbaden, Germany,  gave  a lecture on new opportunities in customer communication through artificial intelligence – from social bots to chatbots. “The use of artificial intelligence is the next big thing”, she predicts. According to EU commission statistics the growth of this market will climb up to USD 38.8 billion in 2025. Artificial intelligence allows machines to behave as if they were intelligent and supplies them with the ability to always learn more and something new. “This is the big difference with regards to conventional software. Chatbots allow an automated communication with customers in real time,” says Hofmann. They are an appropriate tool to relieve staff members and generate an added value in customer relationship. Communication in real time without any waiting loops. Isa Hofmann presented the results of a recent study from business school Cologne and the agency morefire, that tried for the first time to classify existing chatbot types.

Unni Krishnan, Co-Founder of LongWealth GmbH with offices in Vienna and Bangalore is consulting large groups like Tata and Taj in India. He remembers a famous encounter between the Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda and Jamsetji Tata on a boat trip from Yokohama to Vancouver. Impressed by Vivekanada’s views on science, the very first idea of establishing a research institute in India came up by the end of the 19th century. Vivekananda commented this idea with the following words: “How wonderful it would be if we could combine the scientific and technological achievements of the West with the asceticism and humanism of India!” India offers multiple opportunities for innovative Austrian companies to enter the market, according to Unni Krishnan.

Stefan Rohringer, Vice President Development Center Graz, Infineon Technologies Austria AG pointed out the very first examples of electronics integrated into textiles that Infineon presented in 2003. Researchers at Infineon had discovered a way to make large textile surfaces such as carpeting or tent cloth “intelligent”. Woven into fabrics, a self-organizing network of chips was able to monitor temperatures, pressures or vibrations. “This shows that you also might introduce things too early to the market”, Rohringer commented. He presented the next generation of quantum computers that provide the necessary security in times of cashless payment and IoT. With 28 billion connected devices already in 2021 internet security plays an important role.

Interesting lectures from start-ups presented successful business models like smart inlay soles from the company stAPPtronics that help wearers to control their body posture. The start-up Texible is a think tank for interesting new applications of smart textiles for the elderly. The demographic change creates new requirements. One example are smart bed inserts for humidity control. Florence Bost, French designer based in Paris demonstrated how the appropriate design may enhance news and tangible services in products.

Day 2:

Sabine Gimpel from TITV Greiz, Germany, was moderator of the morning session and gave a lecture on industry 4.0. Günter Grabher, CEO of Grabher-Group & Smart-Textiles Platform, Austria, presented some of the new technologies that his companies are working on in various clusters. Two examples were an office chair, optimizing the user’s posture while seated as well as a textile reinforced concrete, dedicated to repair ramshackled bridges.

Marcus Kottinger, solution architect at Axians IBM, Germany, as well as Prof. Enrico Putzke, Technical University Chemnitz, Germany, explained in their lectures how smart textiles are used for monitoring, both material and humans, and thus help to avoid accidents in heavy industry.

Sven Böhmer, head of sales, Statex Produktions- und Vertriebs GmbH, Germany, explained the advantages of textile electrodes and their conductivity due to silver incorporated into yarns or fabrics. Textile electrodes play an important role in a variety of medical applications like muscle and nerve stimulation or monitoring of vital parametres.

The focus of the last three lectures was on Cradle to cradle®. Vera Gratzl, product development, Werner & Mertz GmbH, Germany, showcased some innovative products from their brand Frosch, equipped with a fluorine-free hydrophobic treatment. Andreas Röhrich, director product development, Wolford AG, Austria introduced the new collection of sweaters and leggings, entirely manufactured according to the cradle to cradle® standard.

Albin Kälin, CEO EPEA Switzerland GmbH, Switzerland, pioneer of the cradle to cradle® concept gave his vision on the future of production with cradle to cradle® and how it is contributing to reduce the human footprint on earth.

Günter Grabher, initiator and CEO of the Smart Textiles Platform Austria summarizes and gives his future vision: “The future of smart textiles is a true interdisciplinary collaboration between various industries, to benefit from the enormous potential of this growing market.”