Smartwear or Smart Apparel
There are a few Connected Apparel, Smartwear or Smart Apparel innovations available today The New Yorker reported in 2007 that the Italian firm Ermenegildo Zegna was launching a first solar-powered jacket, which was released in 2009. Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger introduced his solar jacket that powers a smartphone in December of 2014.
Recently Flex described several innovations the company has pioneered which mix the sensing and electronic capabilities of a digital circuit with the stretchiness and washability required of a garment. Smart, connected solutions have enabled the wearable market to move beyond the wrist and become an integral part of someone’s daily outfit. Flex is empowering fashion designers to make technology a part of their vision as more and more customers expect fashion to integrate with their smartphone or connected device.
Imagine someone being able to tap into the power of a solar powered jacket when they suddenly realize that they’re off the path and night is getting closer. Maintaining a GPS signal can use a significant amount of battery as can connecting to remote cell towers in the woods. But if their smartphone has been charging in the afternoon sun courtesy of their solar jacket, they’ll be ready to find their way back home safely and securely.
Solar powered clothing can do more than avoid having to recharge on the go – consider clothing that automatically adjusts tiny vents to make a shirt warmer on a chilly day, or let in more airflow during a hot, challenging run. Clothing that is automatically smarter (and more comfortable) is within reach.
What types of Smartwear or Smart Apparel are currently available?
Activewear, another type of connected apparel and better-known as biometric smartwear offered by companies such as Althos Gear, Heddoko, or OMsignal. Activewear can improve someone’s workout by tracking which muscles are firing, how hard the muscles are working and how hard someone is breathing or their heart is beating. This information can be collected by sensors woven into the fabric. Some smart clothing has moisture control, odor control and is machine washable (which is a basic requirement!) These enhanced outfits keep track of someone’s performance via an app on their smartphone.
Exercise clothing is a perfect category for many smart apparel enhancements. Companies such as Lumo Bodytech has created the line of Lumo Run shorts and shirts. Lumo Run products include a 9-axis smart sensor that monitors someone’s running form, helping them learn proper biomechanics and reduce injuries. MAS Holdings works with many leading clothing brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Lululemon. Their Firefly line of illuminated exercise equipment includes a series of LED-lights which flash in sequence to alert drivers of a runner or bicycle rider wearing the clothing. By taking safety technology beyond simple reflectors, the active movement of the Firefly lights is designed to signal that a living person is wearing the outfit.
Shoes can become smart shoes by adding sensors to measure biomechanical data of an athlete’s form, to help prevent injuries, improve performance, or just track how many steps we take, and calories burn. Nike one of the leaders of this technology with the first Nike+ shoes and clip-on device and continues to lead with an ecosystem of apps, devices and community of running enthusiasts. Some of the latest technology include a smart wearable shoe by Kinematix that connects to an app that visually represents how someone’s feet hits the ground, records that person’s stride and tracks how this performance improves with ongoing training.
Another type of smartwear are smart socks. No, we don’t mean the Netflix socks that can tell if you’ve fallen asleep (although that’s pretty smart too!) Medical smart socks can help diabetic patients make sure their feet are staying warm enough, a major challenge given how diabetes can inhibit the blood flow and sensation of patient’s feet. “Smartsox” were developed at the University of Arizona to help prevent amputations in diabetes patients by providing people with connected intelligence.