Infineon Technologies Japan KK, a Japanese unit of Infineon Technologies AG, announced that Infineon, a major German chipmaker, has developed technology called “wearable electronics” with LSI chips sewn and wired into fabrics.
The Japanese subsidiary held a preview session and revealed a washable MP3 player woven into a jacket. (photo above is browse with a MP3 player sewn in)
Infineon has developed a micro-controller with water-resistant packaging and a sound processor IC, and a fabric woven with an electric conductor. These two are the basic technologies of the wearable electronics.
The electric conductor woven into a fabric has a copper core with a polyester-coated silver conductor. (photo right) The main body of the chip and joints between the electric conductor and the chip are also coated to be washable.
The washable MP3 player is made up of the micro-controller, the fabric woven with an electric conductor as well as (1) a module consisting of a slot for multimedia cards (MMC) and batteries, (2) an earphone and a microphone, (3) a flexible sensor keyboard and (4) the fabric of the clothes.
Users can manipulate the MP3 player using the sensor put on the clothes. They can also manipulate it by talking in German into the micro-controller with a voice recognition capability.
Warner Weber, a senior director of a central research division of Infineon, said the MP3 player will be commercialized in three to four years. Weber said the clothes will cost about 50 euros while the sound-processor chip will cost about 10 euros.
The washable MP3 player is an example of products using wearable electronics technology. The German chipmaker plans to commercialize the technology itself in two years in the medical sector and other fields, he said.
Also, Infineon is commercializing a thermal generator that generates electricity by taking advantage of the difference in temperature between the surface of a human body and the clothes worn by the person.
By combining the thermal generator and the wearable electronics, the company hopes to develop a wearable hearing aid, which does not require batteries, in a few years.