The US government announced it is developing smart textiles that transform any clothing into surveillance tools – a program it is calling SMART ePANTS.
The computerized garments will ‘feel, move and function’ like regular clothes but include capabilities to record audio, video and geolocation data.
Officials plan to produce shirts, pants, socks and underwear with tiny cameras, sensors, microphones that behave like threading and energy harvesters powered by the wearer’s body.
Reports claim the National Intelligence Department has spent $22 million on the effort geared toward undercover agents, law enforcement and emergency medical technicians.
Officials plan to produce shirts, pants, socks and underwear with tiny cameras, sensors, microphones that behave like threading and energy harvesters powered by the wearer’s body
The announcement was made by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), an arm of the Office of the Director of National Defense.
‘The Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems (SMART ePANTS) program represents the largest single investment to develop Active Smart Textiles (AST) that feel, move, and function like any garment,’ IARPA shared in a press release.
‘Resulting innovations stand to provide the Intelligence Community (IC), Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies with durable, ready-to-wear clothing that can record audio, video, and geolocation data.’
IARPA has divided the funds among five entities, The Intercept reports.
According to the report, $11.6 million and $10.6 million to defense contractors Nautilus Defense and Leidos, but the other amounts have not been disclosed.
However, the other three entities include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SRI International and Areté.
The program aims to provide surveillance clothing to government personnel and first responders. Cameras could be placed inside fabrics to go undetected (pictured)
IARPA plans to develop AST electronic components completely integrated into the fabric – something no public or private group has achieved to date
SMART ePANTS Program Manager Dr Dawson Cagle said the innovative clothing will improve the capabilities of personnel working in dangerous or high-stress environments, such as crime scenes and arms control inspections.
He also asserted that Active Smart Textiles (ASTs) could collect information one doesn’t notice, increasing job effectiveness.
‘As a former weapons inspector myself, I know how much hand-carried electronics can interfere with my situational awareness at inspection sites,’ Cagle said.
‘In unknown environments, I’d rather have my hands free to grab ladders and handrails more firmly and keep from hitting my head than holding some device.’
To achieve these goals, IARPA plans to develop AST electronic components completely integrated into the fabric – something no public or private group has achieved to date.
‘Making smart clothing with the same ‘feel’ as regular clothing is critical for SMART ePANTS’ success,’ Cagle said.
‘This means sensors need to be integrated in such a way that the AST garment is just as stretchable, bendable, and supple as a comparable garment containing no electronics.’
Program development will occur over three phases: an initial 18-month ‘proof of concept’ or ‘build it’ phase, a 12-month ‘wear it’ phase and a 12-month ‘wash it’ phase.