Will I be "computer embedded?

Researchers at The Ohio State University are developing embroidered antennas and circuits with 0.1 mm precision—the perfect size to integrate electronic components such as sensors and computer memory devices into clothing. Credit: The Ohio State University, photo by Jo McCulty

We often hear the phrase "computer embedded" referring to the situation of an object embedding a computer. Computer have become so small, and often cheap, that indeed more and more objects are embedding a computer.

Advances in bio-engineering are also promising a variety of medical devices controlled by a computer that could be embedded in our body. Actually, some pacemakers are computers, as it is the case of insulin pumps (and they can be potentially hacked with very nasty results!).

However, having myself to be embedded in a computer would seem quite strange. And yet, with just a bit of imagination, that is what may happen with the work being done at the Ohio State University where a group of researchers has found a way to knit electronic components inside the fabric of clothes.

They can embroider circuits into a fabric with a precision of 0.1 mm, exactly what it takes to integrate sensors, memory and processing chips in a shirt.

Their goal is to develop clothes that can sense both your body and the environment, gather data and send them to some monitoring center, if needed. They are even foreseeing an application to monitor the brain, using a flexible cap, easy to wear.

They have also experimented with embroidering of antennas. By creating different shapes they can get customise the fabric to receive and transmit different frequencies.

They are not the only ones embedding electronic components into fabric to create wearable sensors and computers. At the EIT Digital we have a coached company, Plug and Wear, that has technology to manufacture fabric with embedded sensors. The innovation here is in the small size of the embedding that keeps the fabric as pliable as a normal fabric.

So in a day in the next decade I might really end up in a clothes store and ask for donning a jacket providing me with a few TB of storage and enough processing power to edit my photos on the move on its sleeve....
At that point, clearly, I will be the one embedded in a computer!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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