Wearable technology is making headlines left and right this year: smartwatches and health trackers are so 2014; wearable fashion tech is all the rage.
If you want to get in on the wearable trend, forget about getting the latest Apple Watch. Smart clothing is the next wave of disruptive technology that is woven into our daily fabrics – literally so.
If you are at least intrigued by the mention of a “connected jacket” or smart jeans, keep on reading. Here we present to you the weird and wonderful world of smart clothing where fashion is more than meets the eye.
What is smart clothing
For the fashion-aware, tech-savvy millennials, strapping a chunky monitor on your wrist isn’t exactly an awe-inspiring way to style yourself. We have seen the rise of analogue smartwatches as proof that wearable tech is finally catching up with fashion.
But the interest in wearable fashion tech goes beyond wrist-worn accessories. Like Superman who gains superpower from his magic cape, smart garments can empower us all-around to give us superman-like powers.
The same chips and sensors that powered smartwatches can be embedded in fabrics, which is what made the garments “smart”. Because they are in close contact with our skin – the largest organs of our body – these smart fabrics go beyond the limitations of watches and trackers to “read” our body.
The embedded smart tags and sensors are getting thinner and more invisible. Recently, smart clothing makers such as Primo 1 D have developed e-thread with ultra-high-frequency RFID directly woven into the fabrics. Before you know it, you could be wearing invisible antennas in your clothes without feeling anything different.
Where Fashion Meets Cutting-edge Engineering
Perhaps one of the most iconic moments in smart clothing is the debut of Anouk Wipprecht’s fashion-tech piece “Synapse Dress” in September 2014 during the Intel Development Forum in San Francisco.
The sensing dress is powered by Intel Edison microcontroller and 3D printed in a rubber-like material called TPU 92A-1. It’s designed to be interative – a piece of garment that logs your movements and moods for self-learning. The dress even lights up when the wearer feels like her personal space is being invaded – a sentient piece of clothing that reads your mind!
Synapse Dress is one of the first smart garment that uses technology
Fashion tech doesn’t stop at pretty dresses. There is plenty of gender-neutral choices out there, such as the smart commuter jacket developed by Google and Levi. Initially developed for urban cyclists to commute better.
The key smart features this connect clothing include touch-sensitive fibres woven into the sleeve so that instead of incessantly reaching into their pocket for the phone, cyclists can carry out simple tasks such as taking a phone call by tapping on their sleeve.
The smart jacket looks nothing more than a denim jacket, but with powerful tags woven in
The fashion tech industry is booming. Everyday novel pieces of fashion emerge with smart tech inside. We’ve seen smart bikinis that tells you when to apply sunscreen, a smart suit with NFC embedded tags, and many more.
Hi-Tech Clothing for Better Health
Not surprisingly, many smart clothes are focused on monitoring and improving sports performance. For example, smart shirts and shorts have the capacity to accurately track real-time health data such as heart rate, movement, respiration, breathing etc.
Under Armour releases its line of smart sleepwear that aims at helping athletes to recover. This connected garment has bioceramic particles woven into its fabrics, which is said to help absorb infrared wavelengths and helps to reduce inflammation while an athlete is sleeping.
Whether these smart nightgowns actually help athletes sleep better is up to debate, but there are more performance-driven smart garments to choose from. Athos is a brand that specializes in smart wear for athletes. It offers training garments that act as a based layer to extract extensive muscle and heart rate data.
For yogis who are serious about upping their yoga game, Wearable X’s Nadi X yoga pants help you train better with integrated sensors and haptic feedback. It sends a gentle vibration at the hips, knees and ankles when it’s the right time to move or pause.
There are smart socks by Sensoria featuring textile sensors that can pair with Bluetooth Smart anklet. They can track running data such as step counting, speed, calories, altitude and distance with great accuracy. Moreover, these socks prevent injuries by tracking the foot landing technique as you walk and run.
The innovation in smart clothing is exciting to watch. While some of the innovation feels more gimmicky than useful, it’s only the beginning of a new revolution. We hope to see more smart garments that actually address consumer pains and provide value. The opportunity is here for brands to create truly unique wearables that offers a genuine connection, both digitally, physically and emotionally.