Next Big Thing – smart fabric

The army's set to do away with cables, replacing them with electro-conducting yarn woven into clothes – imagine charging your iPhone just by putting it into your pocket

No cables? Tell me more.

At last a near fatal blow has been dealt to mobile cabling, and it was done – rather aptly – by the military. More specifically it was the Centre for Defence Enterprise that funded Intelligent Textiles to come up with the e-textiles, which is made by using electronically conducting yarn to weave clothes with pathways that negate the need for cables.

But where do I plug stuff in?

You don’t. Yet. The technology won't even be available to the military until 2014, never mind civvy street. But when it does arrive, soldiers will be able to route messages and power between devices plugged into the suit without carrying multiple batteries or fear of breakage. Even if it's torn, the suit can reroute to continue delivering data, unlike a flimsy cable.

How can you direct it though?

It uses a ringmain that directs power and data to any of the devices in the soldier's gloves, backpack, helmet and even weapons. Plus it can send power to a helmet without it being tethered – though how is not explained. The science wizards are even working on a fabric keyboard for use with the gear. Is this the future for all clothing? And a more pressing question, what will we do with all that extra time not spent untangling headphones from our pockets?

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