Seibersdorf adds NFC to textiles

The Austrian R&D company’s new textile tags use an antenna that can be woven into fabrics during manufacture, opening up a new market where NFC phones can be used to interact with fashion garments, workwear and a host of other new applications.

Seibersdorf's textile tag
TEXTILES: The copper wire NFC tags are designed to be woven into fabric

Austrian research firms Seibersdorf Laboratories and Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) have released the first details of a new kind of NFC tag that can be integrated into textiles during their manufacture.

The new tags use standard NFC RFID chips that are attached to an antenna manufactured from thin copper wire, Seibersdorf scientist Stefan Cecil has told NFC World. The antenna is integrated into the fabric during the textile production process and, while the NFC chip currently then needs to be attached by hand, Cecil expects this process to also be automated in the future.

The new textile tags could be used “anywhere where it makes sense to save information in the clothes,” says Cecil. Potential uses include storing information about a finished garment within the item of clothing.

The tags could also be used to provide a link to the manufacturer’s website or even to promote further purchases via discount coupons.

And, while the fashion industry is one obvious potential market, there are other specialist markets for the technology, too. “Another application could be in the medical area, in care or nursing of patients, especially with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Cecil.

Development of the new tags has involved the research team in overcoming two main issues. The first was whether there would be performance issues involved in the tag being positioned so close to the human body. That, says Cecil, has not proved to be a problem.

The second issue that needed to be resolved was how to design the tags so that they would still be read, even if they were bent around the wearer’s body. “They need to be flexible, to be comfortable and practical,” says Cecil. “Seibersdorf has conducted extensive testing on this and found that, although bending does affect the reading distance, it is not to a detrimental level.”

The next step was to test how well the tags would stand up to being washed and ironed. “In an initial test the tags were cleaned in a washing machine (60°C), spin dried and ironed with a conventional electric iron. This procedure did not impact the functionality of the textile tag.”

“Our deployment strategy will be licensing to one customer exclusively for dedicated application areas or to several customers non-exclusively in different application areas,” Cecil told NFC World. “A further deployment strategy will be R&D for interested companies based on individual contracts.”

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