Safer working on construction sites and safer journeys to school thanks to textile lighting. But that’s not all.
Stefan Hofmann had the idea while out jogging in the evening. What about integrating LEDs to clothing and accessories, he wondered, so joggers, cyclists and children would be lit up at dawn and dusk.
Light bulb moment
Modern LEDs make this possible. Compact, energy-saving and cost-effective, they are opening up so many new areas of application. Stefan Hofmann, at that time Director Innovation Management in the BU SP at OSRAM, set about developing a technical and commercial feasibility concept. He met with experts from the textile industry where his idea sparked great interest.
Innovations that make life safer
“At OSRAM, we are always on the lookout for innovations that will make life easier and safer. The time had now come to find premium partners in the clothing industry for whom we could offer real added value – a lead over their competitors through innovation, and greater safety for their customers through better visibility.”
Greater safety was therefore a major factor right from the start. Conventional work clothing and schoolbags are mostly equipped with reflectors. They only become visible when the reflectors are directly illuminated – and that may be too late. There are situations where this passive protection is inadequate – for example in poor weather conditions and around dusk and dawn. With active flashing strip lights on their backs, children on the way to or from school and workers on construction sites are instantly visible in such situations. The Safety Lights from OSRAM are active lights so they are always on – not just when the light from car headlamps hits them and the driver is then only fractions of a second from a collision. That’s a small detail with huge importance.
More than a fashion accessory
It is essential that the LEDs are of high quality and extremely reliable. Schoolbags and protective work jackets are subject to great wear and tear. The LED modules have to continue to work properly even if they come into contact with water. The solutions developed by Stefan Hofmann and his team do precisely that. They are permanently integrated in the clothing or schoolbag, easy to use and can even go in washing machines and tumble dryers. Efficient LEDs ensure a long life for the certified light modules. The lights are powered from a smartphone or power bank.
This active lighting is much more than a fashion accessory and has gone far beyond prototype status. Work clothing from UVEX equipped with active lighting has been on the market since the summer of 2018 and demand is steadily rising. Schoolbags from Scout have been in the shops since the fall.
But this was just the start. There is now a separate segment called “Smart Textile Illumination”. And Stefan Hofmann’s team has many more ideas in the pipeline. “The technological trend toward LED miniaturization has enabled light to be integrated in textiles. The combination of LED modules and sensors is opening up many more possible applications. The potential of innovative lighting technology for clothing is far from exhausted”, added Hofmann. At present, the focus is on the safety aspect of active lighting but in future it will be on smart analytics.
For example, sports clothing could warn the wearer that his or her pulse rate is too high. Or a cycling jacket could include an acceleration sensor and indicate to other road users that the cyclist is braking. Further miniaturization of LED technology will enable it to be woven directly into fabrics. Innovations such as these will make not only Stefan Hofmann’s evening jogs a little safer.