Smart clothing moves beyond sportswear sensors

By Catherine

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Catherine Bolgar

 

 

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Clever clothing is moving beyondsensor-laden sportswear, adding capabilities that keep us cool, or warm, and improve our health; smart clothes might one day even make us invisible. Consider the following possibilities.

Cool under fire: Past clothing innovations, such as Kevlar, have greatly enhanced personal safety, for example, by improving bulletproof vests. But being impermeable, such vests also keep out air and trap in the wearer’s sweat. It is a problem that researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) have tried to solve by developing a smart protective vest with an integrated cooling system using “Coolpad” technology originally designed for medical uses.coolpadvest-2

The Coolpad consists of two breathable membranes and a thin hydrophilic textile from which the added water is evaporated for cooling. An active cooling mechanism consists of a Coolpad and a ventilation system based on a spacer fabric (a three dimensional knitted fabric) to guide the air. A tiny fan, similar to that in a computer, pumps air through the spacer fabric, which in turn guides the air through the inside of the vest, increasing evaporation and cooling the wearer, Martin Camenzind, an EMPA electronic engineer, explains. A small water reservoir creates a mist in the fabric channels and, along with the perspiration, helps cool the wearer.

The drop in temperature varies according to how the Coolpad vest is worn. Sometimes a police officer will want to display his or her bulletproof vest, other times to hide it. When worn close to the skin, over a T-shirt, it can reduce body temperature by four to six degrees Celsius, says Mr. Camenzind. “You would feel even smaller temperature changes than that,” he adds. Furthermore, the active cooling system vest weighs about one kilogram, compared with the nearly 20 kilograms of equipment—including radio, gun, flashlight and more—that police officers regularly carry.

Hot fashion: At the other end of the thermometer, nanowire clothing could keep us all warm. Stanford University researchers have developed metallic nanowire-coated fabrics that reflect body heat back to the wearer, augmented by Joule heating in which an electric current releases heat. The clothing is also breathable, so the wearer stays comfortable. One benefit of the technology lies in not having to heat a whole house for its inhabitants to stay warm.

Walk like a robot: In another remarkable development, a Bristol University research team is developing soft-robotic clothing, such as smart trousers that support wearers as they walk or climb stairs, helping to prevent falls. Wearable robotics, especially for the elderly, might be more efficient than bulky walking aids or stair lifts, and more comfortable than braces that can restrict blood circulation.

Healthy fabrics: Other smart fabrics, being developed at the University of Laval in Quebec, can monitor and wirelessly transmit a wearer’s biomedical information. Such fabrics can provide a minimally invasive way to monitor chronic diseases, glucose levels, heart rhythm, brain activity, movement or location.

Clothes hide the man: In the distant future, scientists may be able to develop an “invisibility cloak,” using metamaterials—materials with properties not found in nature. Metamaterials could be used for better imaging, for visual prosthetics such as contact lenses, or for sensors. Metamaterials might also be used to create fabric with an interesting, colorful pattern that can change an object’s image, including its color, says Andrea Di Falco, lecturer in nano-photonics at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Researchers there are developing Metaflex, a flexible metamaterial with electromagnetic properties.

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Metamaterials often consist of metal particles smaller than light waves. To make something invisible, a metamaterial must keep light from interacting with the material itself, Dr. Di Falco explains. “If you hide the object with a cloak but you see the cloak, you haven’t done the job. You have to hide the object and hide the cloak itself.”

Researchers are therefore experimenting with ways to bend or alter light in order to hide objects. But each object needs its own unique cloak, making it feasible on a small scale but impractical for bigger objects such as people, says Dr. Di Falco. “Cloaking today is possible provided you accept some limitations,” he says. “Will we ever be able to have a Harry Potter cloak? It’s possible, but it’s very, very far off.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. 

For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

Spotlight on 3-im: Bringing a World View of BIM to Italy

By Akio

 

Edmondo Occhipinti founder and Director of 3-im

In some ways Edmondo Occhipinti, founder and director of BIM consultancy 3-im, is starting from the ground up—again.

Occhipinti spent more than eight years with Gehry Technologies, working from his role as a consultant to ultimately manager of the company’s European and South American divisions.

During that time, he grew from an individual with strong technical knowledge of 3D technologies to a manager who taught others how to apply these tools.

Now, in his new role with 3-im, Occhipinti is teaching a whole new group of players how advanced modeling can solve some of the most complex challenges facing the AEC industry.

Tweet: @treiemme is teaching players how 3D modeling can solve the complex challenges facing the #AEC industry @Dassault3DS http://ctt.ec/UOVub+Click to tweet: “@treiemme is teaching players how 3D modeling
can solve the complex challenges facing the #AEC industry”

Tech-Created Challenges

Many of these challenges are created by the technology tools used most widely today.

For example, on the project management side, one of the greatest problems Occhipinti sees is the fragmentation among systems.

“Every single department is on its own system,” he explains. “There is no integration among planning, procurement, etc., and everything is spread out on a thousand different documents that are really not connected at all.”

This fragmentation leads to problems in communication, errors and emailed updates that are outdated almost before they are sent.

Then, there are issues of scalability.

Many façade contractors already are using 3D technologies. The challenge, however, is finding a scalable solution that allows them to grow their business beyond one scope. Products suitable for coordinating the sizing of 300,000 cladding panels haven’t always been able to handle the highly detailed engineering of smaller components — or smoothly interface among these details.

3-im, a Dassault Systèmes partner, has heard time and again the surprise of clients who realize a solution already exists that can improve coordination among trades and components.

A New 3D Market

That surprise often comes because the Italian industry is relatively new to 3D design possibilities.

The country is home to some of the strongest construction companies in the world, particularly in the field of infrastructure. Many of these players have branched out worldwide and have led to the rise of smaller supporting players.

The painful irony, however, is that many of these companies are struggling in the regional market, even as they grow internationally, due to the ongoing economic crisis inn which Italy is mired.

It’s within this unique contradiction that Italian contractors are beginning to ask about 3D technology. Occhipinti notes that as a result of these economic forces, Italy has been moving much slower than some of the Northern European countries into its use of technology tools.

“What we’re seeing is these companies that are now technically very strong, but technologically very weak,” Occhipinti says.

That is about to change.

A Partner in the Process

Because many of these contractors have offices around the world, these Italian companies are comparing their capabilities to joint venture partners that are prepared to bid on projects requiring 3D delivery.

This recognition is leading many regional projects to seek out partners such as 3-im.

“They are looking at partners in Italy and thinking ‘if I want to get more competitive abroad, where my main market is, I need to be able to compete with the others and bring myself to another level. How do I do that?’” Occhipinti has found.

It’s a question that 3-im is well suited to answer. The company is made up of Italians whose careers have been built on technologically complex projects entirely outside of Italy. Since arriving in Italy in 2013, the company has established work with several major contractors, and is setting out to wow the rest by way of example.

A Complex Example

Among those examples is 3-im’s current work with Morphosis Architects on the San Donato Milanese headquarters of Eni S.p.A., the Italian oil company with worldwide operations.

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The 117 million EUR complex will feature three buildings covering 120,000 square meters. Each building will be connected by various platforms. The double-skin façade is designed with a level of geometric complexity that made 3D design a near necessity.

Tweet: The geometric complexity behind this €117M, 120K-sq-meter complex made 3D design a necessity @treiemme @Dassault3DS http://ctt.ec/3SL01+Click to tweet: “The geometric complexity behind this €117M,
120K-sq-meter complex made 3D design a necessity”

During its design development, Eni decided to implement a BIM process for the design allotment, construction documents and tendering process. “It was looking for a partner that had the experience to run this particular process,” Occhipinti said.

At the start of this project, 3-im found a partner in Dassault Systèmes, finding the company’s 3D technology the perfect product for defining the scale and complexity of the Eni project.

For nine months, 3-im experts have worked to build a dense 3D model for the project, bringing it to LOD 350, which not only represents the shapes and sizes of specific object, but also the interfaces among building systems.

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Occhipinti explains that using 3D helped ease three key areas:

  • Coordination of systems: 3D allowed 3-im to model the work of the different trades that would be involved. Occhipinti notes that many basic 3D programs would not have been enough to handle this coordination — because of the changes that were happening on an almost daily basis.
  • Geometric complexity: The double-skin can be complex to fabricate on its own, but this one employs some fairly unique geometry. In addition, each entry is made up of a double-curvature glass reinforced concrete panel that will ultimately be carved one by one due to their individual designs.
  • Data structure: The model was structured so that all of the necessary materials and specifications, and all of their information and features, was included and could be effectively pulled out of the model as needed. This not only proved helpful with scheduling, but with cost control.

A Fresh Opportunity

Despite the challenges facing Italian design and construction companies, and their partners around the world, Occhipinti sees major opportunities.

“We are living in an extremely complex moment where the global economy is shifting from one phase to the next, and this shift is a great opportunity for every industry to think about itself and propose new ways of improving processes,” he says.

As he points out, the construction industry is infamous for its inefficiency, so at this point there are no wrong answers — except for maintaining the status quo.

“Things like this don’t happen quickly,” Occhipinti adds. “When I started in this industry more than ten years ago, people were saying ‘in five years BIM is going to be standard.’ Five years later we heard the same thing. Things take time to change — and that’s good for us. We have the time to bring new value to the market.”

 

Tweet: Spotlight on @Treiemme: Bringing a World View of #BIM to Italy @Dassault3DS @3DSAEC #BIM http://ctt.ec/3alyT+

Click to tweet this article

 

Akio Moriwaki

Akio Moriwaki
Dassault Systèmes’ head of global marketing for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry, Mr. Moriwaki led the launch of the groundbreaking Lean Construction Solution Experience and is a member of buildingSMART.


Related Resources:

White paper: Technological Change Brought by BIM to Façade Design

Collaborative and Industrialized Construction 

Façade Design for Fabrication  Industry Solution Experience

The logic of biologics

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar, in association with WSJ custom studios

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Biologics have long been the great hope in the fight against non-communicable diseases.  Cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and mental health account for 63% of all deaths world-wide. According to a 2011 World Economic Forum report, these diseases will cost some $47 trillion in lost global output over the next two decades. Unsurprisingly, biologics are grabbing an increasing share of the blockbuster drugs market; in 2014 they represented six of the world’s 10 best-selling pharmaceuticals.

Unlike conventional chemical-based drugs, biologics are organic and consist of larger molecules, with thousands of times more atoms. Their greater complexity, however, means that “the regulatory pathway is more cumbersome,” notes Ranjith Gopinathan, program manager, life sciences in the European health-care practice of Frost & Sullivan, a global market research and consulting firm. Of the 41 new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014, only 11 were biologics.

Never the less, biologic drugs that have been approved have made a huge and rapid impact. Take Sofosbuvir (sold by Gilead as Solvaldi), an anti-viral medication that helps cure hepatitis C. With some 150 million sufferers world-wide, the drug became a global best seller within its first year on the market.

One of the hottest areas in biologics is the development of monoclonal antibodies. These mimic the body’s natural antibodies and have proven to be particularly effective in cancer treatment. They can make cancer cells more visible to the immune system, block growth signals, prevent new blood vessel formation in tumors, and deliver radiation or chemotherapy to cancer cells.

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Trastuzumab (sold by Roche as Herceptin), for example, is a monoclonal antibody that targets the HER2+ receptor in breast cancer, a genetic variation found in 15% of  breast cancer patients. When used with other chemotherapy drugs, Herceptin increases survival rates 37%. Roche has come up with other biologics—pertuzumab (sold as Perjeta) and trastuzumab emtasine (sold as Kadcyla)—that can further improve Herceptin’s results, says Barbara Gilmore, a senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Another monoclonal antibody, launched on the U.S. market in March 2015, is dinutuximab, (marketed by United Therapeutics as  Unituxin). Containing mouse and human components, it helps the immune system find and destroy cancer cells by targeting a substance found on the surface of neuroblastoma tumor cells. Neuroblastoma cancer starts in the nervous system and typically afflicts children under five.

Monoclonal antibodies are key to the success of targeted therapeutics, a process that attacks diseases without affecting healthy cells and tissues. Meanwhile, advances in companion diagnostics and genetic profiling would bolster personalized medicine.

“The growth will be in personalized medicine and targeted therapeutics,” says Mr. Gopinathan. “More efficient drug-development processes based on the disease pathophysiology and genetic risk factors would be game-changers in the industry.” He predicts: “Biologics will continue to outpace overall pharma growth.”

Another promising growth area lies in non-brand versions of biologics, known as “biosimilars.” These are analogous to the $261 billion generic drugs market that replicates conventional drugs whose patents have expired.

One such biosimilar, developed by Novartis, is Zarxio , a version of Amgen’s filgrastim (sold as Neupogen), which helps prevent infection during chemotherapy. Amgen is also developing six of its own biosimilar drugs.  “Here’s a biotech company that makes biotech drugs, and even though they have a robust pipeline, they’re also making biosimilars,” says Ms. Gilmore. “It’s very smart. There’s money to be made there.”

Frost & Sullivan forecases a 60% compound annual growth in the biosimilar market between 2012 and 2019. A RAND Corp. study estimates  that biosimilars could reduce spending on biologic drugs in the U.S. by $44 billion over the next decade, while Spain’s University of the Basque Country forecasts €20 billion savings in Europe through 2020.

biosimilar

 

However, getting biosimilars into the market remains a major challenge. Biologics’ complexity makes them hard to replicate because they use biological processes or living organisms to create the drugs’ molecules.

The European Union has approved only 19 biosimilar drugs since 2006, and the U.S. approved its first biosimilar, Zarxio, in March 2015. Herceptin lost its patent protection last year in Europe and will lose its U.S. patent in 2019, but no biosimilars have yet been approved in those jurisdictions, an indication of how difficult the process is.

Moreover, unlike generics, biosimilars are not much cheaper than their originals to produce. Mr. Gopinathan calculates that “the price reduction is, at most, 30%.” Health care’s great hope will still come at a price.

 

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.



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