QinetiQ researchers have developed a futuristic smart shoe with multiple functionalities including smart textiles, flexible power storage, GPS tracking and physiological monitoring.
The shoes also incorporate a unique shoelace developed in collaboration with textiles experts in the Advanced Textiles Research Group (ATRG) at Nottingham Trent University. These laces contain small light emitting diodes (LEDs), illuminating to improve the wearers safety; ideal for joggers, cyclists and defence and security personnel in dark settings.
The laces could have a number of applications in the future, including to alert wearers to various signals such as GPS route navigation and identifying certain threats identified nearby, acting as a non-intrusive early warning system. As an application, this could be particularly beneficial to defence markets with front line soldiers wearing the technology to detect hazardous environments, and using GPS tracking to identify the location of missing personnel. This technology could also significantly benefit the leisure market, with the smart shoes enabling the safety and wellbeing of children. Further functionalities such as antennas, sensors and micro-generators may also be incorporated into such smart-textiles in the near future.
Commenting on the technologies developed in the smart shoe, Roya Ashayer-Soltani, a materials scientist and functional textiles expert at QinetiQ said “The laces have real potential to make a great difference to the athletic, leisure, defence and security industries individually. When integrated together with other advanced technologies onto this smart device, they become something extremely useful and futuristic.”
Charles Footer from QinetiQ added “We used the Smart Shoe as a demonstrator based-technology accelerator. It has helped us develop a number of great inventions in the smart/conductive textiles, communications, energy storage and physiology monitoring areas. With our multi-discipline expertise and ability to successfully integrate capabilities into useful products, the shoe and its sub-components really have the potential to make a big impact across many sectors”
Whilst discussing the shoelace component of the shoe, Professor Tilak Dias, who leads the ATRG in the School of Art & Design said “These laces could become a very simple way for runners or cyclists to improve their visibility on dark winter nights. Not only that, but our contacts in industry believe that they could become popular as a fashion accessory and worn for aesthetic purposes, as well as safety reasons.”
The laces and smart components are powered by a small, flexible battery in the shoe, all developed by QinetiQ for demanding use. Further electronic parts are designed to be flexible and shock resistant and are embedded in a silicone pod to protect them from exposure to water and other materials, whilst seamlessly incorporating them into the design of the show. With the electronics not visible to the eye or felt by the wearer, the smart shoes appear and behave just like normal trainers.