Shaping the future with Smart Textiles
Picture this: A map with all the benefits of a SplashMap – Scrunchable, light, indestructible, available anywhere – but with the ability to ‘display’ your location as you move. Imagine then if the content of the map updated too – perhaps to show historic troop movements sweeping through. Now imagine the whole content of the map updating on-the-fly – your handy fabric format literally becoming a window on the whole world.
Pictures like these define our dreams for dynamic SplashMaps. They may seem far-fetched but, thanks to Southampton University, our first dream has already come true with eSplashMap1. And, thanks to the EU’s Interreg programme, we’ll be ticking-off dream 2 as well!
Prove our concept
During 2019 we worked with Southampton University to prove our concept of a fabric map that pinpoints your location. The work, called “eSplashMap1” and carried out by final year students from the Electronic Engineering faculty, not only developed and assembled the location and display components into a prototype, but also included additional navigation features such as a night-light and compass and a funky off-board charging mechanism.
Their heady mathematics & state-of-the-art encapsulated electronics proved the concept as a crucial foundation for the next stage.
Now, with the help of the EU’s Interreg fund for Northern France and Southern England, we’re a partner in a €5m collaboration focussed on printed electronics. The ability to print LEDs and other components unlocks the holy grail of truly flexible displays.
Computers become more SplashMaps-like
No longer confined to delicate laminated plastics, the whole display could, one day, be literally printed onto any number of surfaces. Most usefully, fabrics will mean that displays and computers become more SplashMaps-like, i.e. washable, wearable, all-weather and pretty indestructible.
New opportunities in mapping
With the main thrust of the project being toward medical applications, SplashMaps is charged with creating new opportunities in the mapping and navigation market. With €430k at our disposal to focus on mapping applications, we’ll be taking measures to ready the market and define the supporting infrastructure based upon genuine user needs in the region.
Increasing number of options
Did you notice the new options available via our Make-a-Map service? Satin, SplashTex and multiple dimension options have all been added. This is just the beginning. Our belief is that future users will seek a range of fabrics, formats, sizes and uses. But we can only know by testing the market. Our work with existing and new customers helps inform the direction of the development. For example, the colours and density of the display LEDs, the nature of the fabric and needed functionality will be based upon your needs. This will drive development of chemicals, components, polymer technology and ultimately manufacture with partner companies.
The SmartT project began on April 14th. Since then we’ve secured finance thanks to our Government and the Cooperative Bank, employed auditors and begun some of the heady work of requirements gathering.
Example application areas we are working on include;
- Historic battle maps for the Tourism industry
- Navigation maps for Sport and Leisure industry
- Covert maps for Military applications
And we will be engaging with you, our community. Frequently and through multiple channels we intend to progress map concepts – perhaps yours? – that become a step on the way to a truly dynamic SplashMap. Please watch this space!
Know an ace Organic Chemist looking for an innovative PHD opportunity? Please forward this link from Southampton University to them. They could help define the chemicals for a new era of LEDs for future medical, display and map technologies.