Textiles manufacturing start-up Nextiles, backed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is launching into the sports and performance market to provide smart thread technology that captures biometric and biomechanics data.
Spun out of academia, Nextiles was founded in 2018 by George Sun, a trained biological and electrical engineer, who was finalising his PhD in biomaterials at MIT. While attending MIT’s Media Lab, Sun was recruited to lead the embedded engineering team at Puma, with a focus on incorporating sensors into footwear. Through his work, he was inspired to recreate the sensor industry and provide a superior form factor by developing a now-patented technique to sew sensors directly into fabric.
Nextiles blends traditional sewing techniques with printed circuit boards to make flexible material with sensors embedded within fabrics, such as sportswear. Through its patent-protected manufacturing process, Nextiles’ fabrics allow for complete biomechanic and biometric sensing captured on one platform – no straps, rings, wraps or clunky attachments that only capture partial data.
Nextiles leverages the use of traditional sewing machines and commonly found threads, such as nylon or spandex. The threads used are semi-conductive, which measure mechanical changes from multiple data points. Nextiles differentiates its suite of data analytics by providing Newtonian measurements through its fabrics (force, bending, stretching, velocity, pressure) to offer athletes and teams data such as torque, power, fatigue, strain, and much more. The fabric captures traditional measurements as well by combining force data with IMU technology (direction, speed, distance). Nextiles provides clients with APIs and SDKs to stream data via Bluetooth in real-time and offers the ability for data to be stored locally and in the cloud.
“Modern sewing technology is almost 2,000 years old, but the industry in recent decades has been overlooked because our society believes we maximised its utility,” says Sun, CEO of Nextiles. “However, at Nextiles, we are rekindling textile innovation. One of the reasons we value fabrics over traditional circuit board technologies is our philosophy of building from the bottom-up – thread by thread. Our industry has coveted smartphones so much that we have grown to become content in wearing them as watches and straps. Rather, we should instead endow such powers to what we are most familiar with. Revolutionise our clothes, instead of miniaturising computer chips, by building on top of generation and time-tested fabric materials.”
While Nextiles is leveraging apparel as its first platform, the company sees broad technological applications and is working with several OEMs in various business verticals, such as automotive, military, and fitness.