August 03, 2021
A new partnership between Simon Fraser University’s Personalized Lightweight Apparel Network (PLANet) and Mitacs, a not-for profit organization dedicated to innovation, will accelerate the development of new Canadian wearables and gear over the next five years.
The agreement provides $5.1 million in funding for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to work with the industry to develop new technologies that will benefit societal health and wellbeing.
PLANet is dedicated to improving Canadians’ lives by creating intelligent wearables and gear. The network combines BC’s strengths in materials science, biomedical physiology and kinesiology, engineering, interactive arts and technology, and innovative commercialization with Metro Vancouver’s industry leaders in wearables and gear products.
Professor Neil Branda, SFU Innovates director of technology readiness and prototyping and 4D LABS executive director, says, “Through this partnership we will deliver new smarter, personalized apparel and gear to better our lives, and change the ‘tech’ in tech apparel from ‘technical’ to ‘technology.’ By combining new textiles, embedded sensors and actuators, and machine learning our advanced wearable systems will improve health and wellbeing.”
Eric Bosco, chief business development and partnerships officer at Mitacs, says, “Mitacs is pleased to partner with SFU and the PLANet to facilitate the development of the next generation of wearable gear and apparel. Mitacs accelerates innovation by connecting researchers to industrial partners in important areas such as this. This agreement will play a key role in making Metro Vancouver and Canada a global leader in wearable technology.”
Research will advance wearable technology innovation
Branda says the new technologies will benefit a wide range of users, from first responders and medical staff to recreational and professional athletes, as well as those in military services. “When we think of wearable technology perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is fitness trackers and smart watches, but the technology has the potential to provide much more than just feedback to the user,” he says.
Developing smart helmets with the aim of preventing injuries or diagnosing impacts, including the onset of concussions, is just one potential application.
Others include designing smart fabrics that respond to environmental conditions, which could benefit athletes as well as others whose lives or livelihoods are impacted by weather conditions, by measuring temperature, humidity and moisture loss, then adjusting to become more breathable for the wearer.
Such technology can also provide biomarkers of stress, helping to detect and prevent potential injuries while keeping individuals’ wellbeing top of mind.