Fashion 2.0 – Complement Your Smart Phone With Smart Clothes – Forbes

The Apple Watch, Google Glass, and Fitbit are on the leading edge of consumer “wearables” – technology that combines electronic sensors with everyday apparel.  But watches and eyeglasses are only the beginning.  Shirts, socks, and any other item of clothing or accessory you have in your wardrobe are being reimagined to collect, analyze, and use personalized data.

Smart Clothing, also known as e-textiles, can be used in a wide variety of applications.  They can measure and report vital signs for inpatient or outpatient healthcare, fitness training, or the handling of hazardous materials.  They can track the status and position of soldiers on the battlefield, or monitor the alertness of drivers, air traffic controllers, or construction workers.  The possibilities are as exciting as they are vast.  Here’s a sampling of smart clothing products currently or soon to be available:

1)  AiQ Smart Clothing Company produces a line of smart apparel, including conductive gloves for smudge-free touchscreen use, clothes that light up, clothes that give off evenly distributed heat, and even metal mesh clothing that shields the wearer from radiation.

2)  Designer Pauline Van Dongen offers a Wearable Solar Clothing Collection.  Her coats and dresses integrate solar cells that can charge your smartphone, but be obscured with fabric when not in use.

3)  SmartSox help prevent amputations in diabetes patients who have lost sensation in their feet.   They incorporate fiber optics and sensors to monitor temperature, pressure, and the angles of joints in the feet, and alert the wearer or caregiver of any developing problems.

4)  Exmobaby is smart clothing designed for newborn and infants.  Sensors monitor vital signs and movement, and send this information to 3G and Bluetooth components that can issue appropriate alerts.

5)  Researchers at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, Spain have developed an intelligent hospital gown that wirelessly measures body temperature, heart rate, patient location, and whether the patient is sitting, standing, lying down, walking, or running.

6)  OMSignal uses a small data module to create real-time connectivity and data acquisition through their skin-tight fitness shirts. Ralph Lauren has used the technology in a line of polos, with plans to add dress shirts.

xxxx (Image Source: Ralph Lauren)

Ralph Lauren’s new line of smart polo shirts also acts as a fitness tracker. (Image Source: Ralph Lauren)

What’s next?  How about garments that change color when the wearer is experiencing a medical issue?  (Or maybe you just want your tie to better match your shirt.)  How about swimwear that monitors water temperature and quality?  Wouldn’t it be cool if glove and sock warmers adjusted and maintained a specific, requested temperature?  On a more serious note, a life-saving application could be compression socks or pants that detect blood clots.

Despite the rapid advances at work here, there are still many obstacles in the development and design of smart clothing.  Battery life is limited.  The health risks of having so many electronics so close to our body have not been fully determined.  However, we know that consumers prefer technology that is smaller, lighter, and faster.  As those obstacles are hurdled by new research and development, adoption of smart clothing by the general public will only accelerate.

Sounds like we could all benefit from a fashion-tech makeover.

Follow Rob Szczerba on Forbes, Twitter (@RJSzczerba), Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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