Smarter Clothes

Europe wants to own the market for fabrics that can monitor you and your environment

Lea Crespie for TIME

The Proetex fire jacket It tracks the wearers vital signs and position and the fires strength.

At the Eucentre, a research site co-founded by the Italian Civil Protection Department in Pavia, Italy, a young engineer dons a firefighter's uniform that has been in testing for six months. The first prototype of the Proetex project, the ordinary-looking navy blue jacket and pants contain high-tech fabrics that can keep track of a firefighter's vital signs, warn him if the fire is too hot up ahead, provide GPS readings of his position and alert the command center if he has passed out. The Eucentre engineer walks across the room, and the computer screen reacts. The interface reads MOVING: YES.

The...

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