US Government sponsors wearables

The US government announced today an investment of over $170 million in a manufacturing innovation hub focused on flexible hybrid electronics. to be based in Silicon Valley.  This will be a partnership with an extensive roster of private sector companies including Apple, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard.

The partnership, to be known as the Flex Tech Alliance, is receiving $75 from the Department of Defense.  This will be matched by almost $100 million in private sector funding. The “flexible hybrid electronics” term refers to digital devices which can be stretched or wrapped around individuals or equipment. In simple terms, that most obviously means wearable technology, and the plan is to use high-quality 3D printing to manufacture wearables on a large scale. 

The DoD’s interest lies in smart textiles as part of a “smart battle kit,” although its announcement also highlights medical monitoring potential, as well as “consumer economy applications.”

The latter will be of interest to marketers. The potential of wearables to capture real-time information about user location, activity, and even mood, and define ever more precise audiences for targeting purposes, is obvious. But, especially following the Google Glass fizzle, consumer uptake has not been rapid, and there has been limited incentive for vendors to solve the problem of manufacturing wearables–especially comfortable, lightweight electronic textiles–quickly, cheaply, and on a large scale.

The hope, according to the DoD, is that the institute will bring “the best minds from government, industry and academia together to advance U.S. leadership in manufacturing flexible hybrid electronics.” Advancing these technologies will have commercial as well as strategic military implications.

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