Pentagon Announces Partnership With Boeing, Apple, Harvard To Develop Advanced Electronic Fabrics

On Friday the Pentagon announced it is teaming up with Boeing, Apple, Harvard and other industry heavyweights to develop high-tech clothing and cameras that can be fitted to people or mounted onto the outside of vehicles.

The shockingly quick pace of development in wearable technology is driving the Pentagon to turn to the private sector rather than creating the technology itself from scratch, according to defense officials.

“I’ve been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley and in tech communities across the country,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement delivered in California.

“Now we’re taking another step forward.”

The pentagon is specifically eyeing technology that can be woven into the clothing worn by soldiers. The longer term vision is to incorporate such materials, which will likely be printed, into the structure of ships and warplanes to monitor their structural integrity in real time.

Carter announced that the U.S. government will sponsor the project to develop these materials, which in total will amount to $171 million in investment. The pentagon is contributing $75 million while companies managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory will contribute $90 million, with local governments chipping in the remainder.

The initiative, dubbed the FlexTech Alliance, will see 162 companies, universities and other groups participate to rapidly advance the Pentagon’s use of these materials in its operations.

The news comes after Carter visited California just four months ago to establish an outreach office in an effort to build ties with the tech community. Secretary Ash will visit the office on Friday.

One of the key deliverables in the plan is the creation of the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub, headquartered in San Jose. That facility will be the seventh of nine such initiatives planned by the Obama administration to help kickstart the slowing U.S. manufacturing sector.

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