New research by Venture Development Corporation, “Smart Fabrics and Interactive Textiles,” (SFIT) estimates that demand for global SFIT technologies will exceed $642 million in 2008, representing a four-year compound annual growth rate of 27%. The figure only quantifies SFIT applications that use electricity to stimulate a cognitive response or interaction from the fabric.

In 2005, the largest market for SFIT technologies was transportation, which primarily used the technology for heated seats. However, other strong verticals included government and military agencies and consumer and retail customers. The integration of entertainment and communication, particularly MP3 and cell phone devices, with clothing initially started in high-end niche markets, but is gradually becoming more popular as prices fall and technologies improve.

Several factors are driving SFIT growth. Two market segment classes that can “afford” to bring the technology to market are those that are mission-critical applications (e.g., health and survival of patients and soldiers) and high-end niche consumer markets. Practical applications can be used for saving lives, fueling the development and adoption of SFIT products by the military and medical fields today, and the professional and commercial realms tomorrow. Also, numerous industry associations involved in the areas of technical textile development are focusing on supporting advanced research and development.