Matt Kolmes, CEO
“I was jolted awake in the middle of the night, and it felt like someone stabbed me in my chest,” recalls a heart attack survivor, detailing the horrifying events of the fateful day that changed her life forever. She describes the shooting pain in the center of her back, clammy palms, and how she mistook it for heartburn until the pain radiated to her jaw and she collapsed.
Such alarming incidents make us wonder if there was a way to proactively detect underlying ailments. What if the clothes we wear had the capability to detect vital signs around the clock? Or our car seat fabric could sense and alert us when our health begins deteriorating?
Supreme Corporation Breathes Life Into This Idea.
As the original inventor of high-strength composite yarns, Supreme Corporation is spearheading the smart textile revolution. With the world’s first conductive smart yarn, the company is opening the door to a new era of smart fabrics with enormous potential for health and medical applications. Supreme’s sensor-embedded yarns can unobtrusively, noninvasively, and continuously monitor the vital signs and movements of people wearing a smart fabric.
The reliable, flexible, and comfortable smart yarns can be used to develop innovative products that can sense blood pressure, temperature, and moisture and have self-heating/cooling properties.
“We are changing impossible to possible, making the world a better place,” says Matt Kolmes, CEO of Supreme Corporation. “The ultimate goal behind developing this technology is to be able to intervene and get medical assistance to people who need it before an emergency occurs.”
Supreme delivers an expansive portfolio of smart yarns with varied characteristics and types, from high-strength and elastic yarns to fire retardant and cooling ones. Supreme’s high-performance smart yarns are powered by the open circuit resonant (SansEC) sensing system developed by a group of NASA Langley Research Center scientists under Dr. Stanley E. Woodard. The SansEC sensing system, working without an electrical connection, as the name implies, fundamentally serves as a method for deeper detection of a material’s anomalies and defects. The technology produces a spectroscopy readout based on the detection of localized changes in magnetic or electric fields with a network analyzer. SansEC spiral sensors can accurately measure temperature and moisture, making them viable for various commercial applications.
Today, utilizing NASA’s Technology Transfer license, Supreme delivers products with a performance advantage over what is currently available. The company leverages a B2B business model to provide brands with its high-tech, sensor-enabled yarns. Supreme not only makes sensors out of conductive yarns and threads but also incorporates electronic devices into clothing through its IoT, Sensors, and soft goods partners VOSiq, VitalProbe Inc., and Propel LLC. Together, they have a highly diversified team that utilizes smart wearable clothing and gear employing medical grade body sensors and CatM1 body worn GPS to create a platform of products for First Responders, Police Military, Health & Hospitals and Sports markets.
Journey in The Rearview Mirror
The evolution of Supreme as a global leader in smart yarn innovation is due in large part to the enduring partnerships it has built over the years. When Supreme embarked on its smart yarn journey by establishing VOLT Smart Yarns––a division of Supreme Corporation––an innovative smart textile startup, Textile Instruments approached it with a business opportunity.
Textile Instruments was looking for yarns embedded with sensors. For this, Supreme collaborated with Innovative Ink–a top-notch screen-printing and embroidery services provider–to achieve greater precision by embroidering sensors on the conductive yarn.
After a series of meticulous iterations with different partners, Supreme zeroed in on every minute detail to develop the desired yarn-based sensor that is washable and operates without any cables, battery packs, or transmitters.
In the years that followed, Supreme’s cream-of-the-crop yarn engineers learned the science of capacitance, inductance, and resistance and how to interpret the data from a network analyzer. NASA Langley Research Center then validated the data, tested the sensors, provided feedback on the design, and helped the company manufacture balanced calibrated sensors.Later on, Supreme joined forces with Gyra Systems to integrate artificial intelligence in its yarn-based sensors to alert people to changes in body vitals that could result in an adverse health event or predict if a person would become sick.
“These yarn-based sensors are the culmination of years of R&D endeavors by Supreme and our partners,” notes Kolmes. Driven by the relentless pursuit of excellence, the Supreme team has invested its earnest efforts in creating yarns and sensors that create a lasting impact.
A Breakthrough in Healthcare
Elevating wearable technology to a new level, Supreme has opened a window of opportunities in the healthcare industry. By recreating the experiments conducted at NASA, Supreme has developed large datasets and enabled artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to measure vital signs and predict life-threatening health events with its smart yarns.
These yarn-based sensors are the culmination of years of R&D endeavors by Supreme and our partners
Supreme’s smart yarns are highly beneficial for people with compromised immune systems and chronic ailments such as arthritis pain and incontinence. For example, leveraging the sensors’ capability to detect moisture, Supreme has created prototypes of underwear that can swiftly notify caretakers when diapers are wet. Making way for non-invasive patient care, these smart yarns have a positive impact on patients as well as caretakers. Supreme is currently in the process of testing the prototype with the help of NASA Langley Research Center.
Supreme is currently working to offer a selection of sensors for mattresses capable of monitoring users’ vital signs and alerting them when their health deteriorates and seating for vehicles and office and home furniture.
“In the future, the seat in the Hospital waiting room or your Airline seat will be able to detect if you are developing a fever or you have unhealthy or dangerous vital signs,” stated Kolmes.
Supreme is also experimenting with the power of its wearable technology to address the healing of surgical incisions, wounds, and skin infections through ground-breaking work incorporating nanoscience with Photomedicine.
Photomedicine is a rapidly advancing field of medicine. Supreme’s Principal Scientist is an expert at Photomedicine – PDT (Photodynamic Therapy) and Nanotechnology.
When medical textiles are loaded with Nanoparticles, we get a synergy between Medicine additives and Light Therapy which can help regenerate skin tissue to heal wounds and cure infections. Kolmes is planning to explore more such capabilities and develop a vast portfolio of products for Dermatological and treating health issues.
Such capabilities of Supreme’s yarns have garnered the attention of the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF). Supreme was invited to submit a proposal to use its yarn-based sensors to detect COVID-19 symptoms on human subjects.
The ultimate goal behind developing this technology is to be able to intervene and get medical assistance to people who need it before an emergency occurs
Apart from healthcare applications, Supreme’s smart yarns can be used for a variety of applications from capacitive sensing to resistive heating in a range of products, including jackets and blankets. For instance, jackets made of these smart yarns can keep the wearer warm when the surroundings are cold and vice versa. The smart yarns can also be used in automobile and airplane seats to keep track of a person’s health or even heat gloves used by military personnel. Another unique application of the solution is in concert halls. A philharmonic orchestra recently approached Supreme to use their sensors for a parametric analysis to study the positive impact of music on health.
Great Strides Toward Success
With 58 years in business, 64 patents, 14 patents pending, and six innovation awards, including the Show Stopper award for innovative excellence at the 2017 Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Conference, Supreme is geared to hit bigger milestones and seize new opportunities on the horizon. In 2022, Supreme yarns have been featured by WTIN in their Innovation Issue, and featured at Keynote presentations at TechTextile North America, and the (Defence Technology) DEFTECH Federal Military Innovation Panel discussion.
To sustain its winning streak, Supreme is actively looking to collaborate with major players in various industries and make its trailblazing technology available to more users. Supreme’s next goal is to develop an iOS and Android app that can connect to these sensors via Bluetooth, which will lay the groundwork for the product to be fully ready for market commercialization.