Future-oriented: The US government has embarked on a 42-month journey to make what it calls high-performance, computerized clothing a reality. Products developed under the program could assist government agencies within the intelligence community, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, in their missions. Additionally, these products could prove valuable for first responders and those working in high stress environments.
The intelligent, electrically operated and networked textile systems (SMART ePANTSThe program is managed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the advanced research and development division of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. IARPA participate on high-risk and lucrative research programs to solve key challenges within the intelligence community.
According to the ODNIThe program represents the largest single investment in the development of smart textiles that can record audio, video and geolocation data while looking, moving and feeling like an ordinary garment.
A separate report from The Intercept Expectations The government has poured at least $22 million into the project, and the first wave of wearables could include shirts, pants, socks, and even underwear.
IARPA’s first contracts went to some well-known names, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Nautilus Defense. Partners at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and Advanced Functional Fabrics of America will help keep the program on track, they said.
Smart fabrics that are pliable, stretchy, comfortable and washable sound like something straight out of a James Bond movie. IARPA would like you to believe that this is a cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind program, but the truth is that scientists, as well as individuals in the public and private sectors, have been working with eTextile technology for perhaps decades.
The US government is no stranger to pouring huge amounts of money into research and development projects, and not all of them work. The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), for example, was proposed by the US Special Operations Command in 2013 but was eventually discontinued in 2019 blown at least $80 million in funding.
Photo credit: Killian Cartignies