Some of the initial buzz has waned, but large companies are investing heavily in the technology and giving us a glimpse of what may be ahead.
The Samsung SmartSuit measured the Olympic short-track skaters' exact body posture to calculate the distance between their hips and the ice. This data was transmitted to their coach through a smartphone app. If a skater’s posture wasn’t optimal, the coach could press a button to send a vibration that the skater immediately felt on their wrist. (Courtesy of Samsung.)
Google is another big company that sees the potential of making garments “smarter.” Google’s Project Jacquard, part of the company’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group, is producing conductive yarns that can be used to weave a complete smart garment. Button-like modules provide the connectivity. The first product to use Google’s Jacquard thread technology is Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket, featuring touch-sensitive panels in the sleeves that can be programmed to control electronic devices. Cyclists can use the jacket to access navigation prompts, change their music, or answer phone calls. The yarn sends wireless signals to a smartphone or tablet with a detachable, rechargeable smart tag that clips to the cuff. When the clip is removed, the jacket is washable and the fabric acts like traditional denim. The jacket can be purchased for $350.
DuPont Advanced Materials, a high-volume supplier of electronic inks and compatible substrates for printed electronics, recently introduced Intexar smart-clothing technology that uses stretchable conductive inks printed on film to transform ordinary fabrics into active, connected, intelligent garments. Intexar is embedded directly onto fabric using standard apparel manufacturing processes to create thin, form-fitting circuits. Garments powered by Intexar can reportedly withstand more than 100 washes and continue to perform through repeated stretching and demanding performance. Sportswear with Intexar technology can provide critical biometric data including heart rate, breathing rate, form awareness, and muscle tension.
Dupont's Intexar heat unit is light, stretchable, and creates warmth when integrated into outdoor clothing and powered. (Courtesy of Dupont Advanced Materials.)
DuPont showcased various examples of Intexar smart clothing at the 4th Wearable Expo in Tokyo in January. BodyPlus displayed smart fitness tops, an outdoor team training shirt, and a smart vest for the wellness market. OMsignal displayed a high-end fitness sports bra that uses Intexar technology to capture real time electrocardiography, respiration, and physical activity. Stephane Marceau, OMsignal’s CEO, has said that he believes Intexar technology can enable multiple applications beyond athletic apparel that could enable the company to make smart clothing mainstream.
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