element14 is challenging engineers and developers to design and develop their own piece of wearable technology. The global competition will focus entirely on technology integrated within clothing and wearable accessories, and aims to encourage a deeper level of integration than those demonstrated by first-generation wearables such as the Pebble watch and Google Glass.
Market reports suggest we’ll spend between $6bn and $50bn* on wearable technology within five years and it has fast become one of the biggest topics in global technology. Clothing that can recognise and relay the user’s location, environment or status will allow all kinds of new industrial applications or personal well-being solutions.
element14 have selected the Adafruit’s FLORA kit to provide the computing platform for the challenge. The FLORA allows designers to create products that are far more integrated and less expensive and opens up wearable technology to a wider group of users where potential designs could include a tracking device for the elderly or vulnerable, a cycling jacket with built in visibility sensing lights or gloves that operate as hand-worn data terminals. This challenge follows on from element14’s successful wireless power and energy harvesting challenges, which saw competitors working on projects ranging from monitoring beer brewing to a carbon monoxide detector that never needs batteries.
The FLORA is the size of a man’s watch face and designed to be literally sewn into an item of clothing or fabric accessory using a special steel wire to run the circuitry within the seams. It is programmed via a built in USB and supports USB HID (human interface device) so it can act like a mouse, keyboard or to attach directly to mobile phones to connect to other users or remote data. The FLORA allows easy control and power of a large quantity of addressable RGB LEDs so all types of displays, effects or indication are possible to provide decoration and functional indication. It is also designed to be robust and as accessible as possible for beginners. The fabric friendly board which weights just 4.4g, has no bare headers which could limit location or damage fabric.
Successful entrants from across the element14 community will be given the chance to build and demonstrate a piece of their own wearable technology which should have a useful impact on everyday lives. element14 is calling for engineers and makers to submit their basic ideas here, from which five will be chosen and given a free FLORA kit to develop their project fully with support from the element14 community and other Arduino developers. The ultimate winner, to be announced in September, will be judged by a panel from Adafruit and the Community on the potential of the prototype to be practical to the point where it can be developed into genuine and mainstream products. The quality of supporting content produced during the course of the competition, including blogs, videos and designs will also be considered in the final judging process.
The Adafruit FLORA kits can be purchased in the US from Newark.com and in Europe from Farnell.com. Customers who purchase the kits are also invited to enter the project. To find out more, or submit an idea, head over to the dedicated page on the element14 Community at www.element14.com/wearables.
Filed Under: Energy management + harvesting, Materials • advanced