WASHINGTON — The U.S. Commerce Department is poised to foster more collaboration in a fast-growing and emerging segment of the textile industry known as “smart fabrics.

To that end, the agency will partner with the Industrial Fabrics Association International to host a Smart Fabrics summit in April in an effort to bring industry leaders together and identify public policies that could support the design and manufacture of smart fabrics products by U.S. companies.

The inaugural summit will be held April 4th here and provide a forum for public and private sector leaders in technology, apparel and textiles to discuss developments in the smart fabrics industry, explore areas for collaboration and highlight industry challenges.

“Recent advances in technology have brought together the apparel, technology and textile industries to develop new capabilities in fabrics with the potential to change how athletes, patients, soldiers, first responders, and everyday consumers interact with their clothes and other textile products,” the Commerce Department said. “Known as ‘smart fabrics,’ these new high-tech products have the capability to interact with their user or environment, including tracking and communicating data about their wearer or environment to other devices through embedded sensors and conductive yarns.”

Applications for the new technology in fabrics are expanding in such areas as defense, fitness, health and public safety.

The global market for smart clothing is expected to grow to $600 million by 2020 from $17.2 million in 2013, according to research from Tractica LLC, the Commerce Department said.

“As ‘America’s Innovation Agency,’ the Department of Commerce plays a unique role in facilitating greater collaboration between the public and private sector leaders to spur new advancements in the industry and encourage the creation of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.,” the agency said. “The Smart Fabrics Summit is an opportunity to discuss critical topics impacting the smart fabrics industry, including research and development funding, intellectual property rights, standards, classification and health regulations.”

The IFAI represents more than 1,500 member companies in the advanced textiles industry, including manufacturers and suppliers of smart fabrics, shad fabrics and other specialty textiles.

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