Living spaces should be attractive – but they need to be functional at the same time. For instance, with the help of a range of electric devices. But this often produces cable clutter. To avoid this, smart wallpaper, carpets and textiles will supply us with power and communication capability in the future.
The intelligent networking of devices in our own homes makes life safer, more comfortable and also helps save energy. Unfortunately, private households are missing the right power and communication ports in the spots where IoT devices could be installed. The result: cable clutter and batteries that continuously need charging and are not ecologically friendly. What’s more, the radio technology used for communicating between devices requires a lot of electricity and is prone to failure.
The new project ConText could provide an answer. A consortium coordinated by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is developing a user-friendly technology that “hides” the cable-based power supply and communication in smart wallpaper, carpets and textile surfaces.
These “connecting textiles” supply low power and can also communicate with each other via standardized smart home protocols. Users can stick, staple or plug IoT devices onto or into the connecting textiles according to their individual requirements. The electronic textiles also offer new intuitive interaction opportunities. For example, it is possible to control and configure devices via haptic interaction patterns (press/touch). In addition, ensuring data integrity and encryption is naturally of primary importance in a secure communications infrastructure.
Gesture control via connecting textiles
The DFKI is contributing its expertise in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), among other things. For example, the textile surfaces should recognize the basic patterns of control gestures and thus enable smart home devices to be controlled and configured intuitively.
Based on the users’ needs, scientists have also developed modular plug-and-play solutions for IoT components that make it possible to connect the systems easily to the textile surfaces without any special skills.
The ConText project, which was launched on July 1, 2019 and is set to last for three years, is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with around 2.9 million euros. The technologies developed are to be assessed in the Bremen Ambient Assisted Living Lab (BAALL) of the DKFI’s Cyber-Physical Systems research department. This lab is an apartment used for testing smart assistance systems.