Top 10 Challenges with Embedding Electronics into Garments

  1. Your skin is not very conductive, but your sweat is.  Learn more from MIT about Galvanic Skin Response.
  2. Conductive fabrics and yarns Conductive fabrics and yarns are not insulated and can fold on themselves, shorting the circuit.  What is a short circuit?  
  3. Conductive stretch fabrics change in resistance when stretched.  Learn more from this Instructable about how to work with Conductive fabrics.
  4. Conductive ink often cracks and requires an additional process of lamination for insulation.
  5. Sensors and Haptics need to be close to the skin.  This is usually achieved with stretch fabrics.  Embedding electronics in stretch fabrics is a major wire routing challenge (because of some of the issues described above.)
  6. Project Boxes are often used to protect electronics and add strain relief.  These are a tough sell for most fashion projects.
  7. Batteries are not washable and electronics components don't do not hold up well when agitated in a wash cycle.
  8. In the Apparel Industry, seeing is believing.  Engineers and makers, your 1" thick Protoboards and Arduinos will not sell anyone on any idea you have in the wearables space. 
  9. Plug and play components made specifically for wearable applications do not exist.  Fashion Design is tactile, relying on the presentation of finished components.  For example, a fashion company cannot make rely on the delivery of a new type of zipper if they do not see the zipper first, regardless of who made it or how great it sounds.  This is no different for electronics.
  10. Programming?  How many fashion designers do you know that can program?  If we want wearables to proliferate a platform needs to exist.  An Open-Source platform to manipulate inputs and output on a designer-friend UI with a White Label App to control these plug and play components (above) is critical.
Converge, TechLeanne Luce