ITK Engineering, a German technology company operating internationally with customers mainly in the automotive and aerospace industries and a 100-percent subsidiary of the Robert Bosch GmbH since 2017, joined forces with Bosch Research to set up the Smart Textile Competence Center in the German town of in Rülzheim to investigate the wide range of opportunities for innovation afforded by new combinations of textiles and electronic components, and to develop „wearables“ for various applications. Bosch Research has been investigating and developing cutting-edge smart textile technologies for some time now. ITK Engineering brings extensive knowledge in software, data analysis, and customer-specific development. With its newly launched platform, the alliance will be able to cover the value chain from end to end as it develops products featuring smart textiles.

“Our Smart Textile Competence Center will take sensor technology and data analysis even closer to the needs of consumers,” predicts Alexander Krause, head of the new competence center and business development manager at ITK Engineering. “The enhanced analysis of sensor data will enable the development of intelligent products of great utility. The scope of potential new developments ranges from fitness shirts with motion trackers and office chairs with integrated posture control to bed linen with sleep trackers and human-machine interaction in an industrial environment,” adds Martin Kröger, the competence center’s founder and business development manager industry at ITK Engineering.

Krause says the chances of innovating such products are good and the technological underpinning this is already largely in place to support these efforts. This is a launchpad not just for integrating electronic components into textile materials, the textile fibers themselves can be made to serve as sensors or actuators. This way, engineers can map key parameters – heart rate, body temperature, air pressure, humidity, and more – and use this information for a wide range of new applications. The partners agree on the importance of the newly founded Competence Center being an open community that welcomes further collaboration with companies and research institutions rather than a closed club.

Dr. Friedhelm Günter, group leader for system integration and technology development at Bosch Research, says, “R&D thrives, above all, through an open-door policy. In the future, we will also be taking B2B partners who want to realize their innovations with smart textile technologies on board. I am confident that they will have an all-around benefit from the expertise and broad technological background that we can offer them at our Competence Center.”