Welcome to the Future of Smart Clothes and Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is a fascinating concept and one that can be applied to clothing in many different applications that simply starts with asking “what if…” PHOTO: emglare.com

Happy New Year! It seems that there is a new and exciting technology that develops with each year’s passing. In the 70s, we had the personal computer and the floppy disk. In the 80s, we sent faxes and listened to music on our Walkmans while the 90s had our fingers busy playing games on the Nintendo Game Boy and watching movies on portable DVD players. In the 2000s we began tweeting, listening to music on our iPods, were wowed by smartphone technology, and stood in line to finally get our hands on the iPhone.

Now that we are well on our way into the 2020s, we are seeing more smart technology becoming available at the consumer level. One exciting type of technology comes in the form of “smart” fabrics or E-textiles for use in clothing that can monitor our health or show off our futuristic fashion sense. Smart fabrics are created with technology woven into the fibers or the fibers themselves are woven to make up the smart fabric that gives some added benefit to the wearer.

Levi’s Trucker Jacket with Jacquard Technology uses proprietary Jacquard Threads. The threads are spun with conductive metal alloys that are incredibly thin, so they can be combined with a variety of natural and synthetic fibers to create different yarns. PHOTO: atap.google.com and Levi’s

Levi’s smart Trucker Jacket is one example that combines a regular denim jacket with sleeves that are made of smart textiles. Touch-sensitive fibers on the cuffs enable the wearer to use gestures to operate their phone while they are otherwise engaged in another activity. While Levi’s jacket may be targeted to a niche market, it’s the innovation behind the idea that is truly exciting.

And, this innovation is blossoming into a whole host of amazing products that can be used for fashion aesthetics, health monitoring, and performance or safety. Take the Smart Bra for example. This is an exciting development with a focus on women’s heart health. This smart technology uses washable circuits with sensors that are sewn into the lining of the bra which monitors electrocardiogram signals and can send real-time data to a woman’s smartphone as well as to her doctor. It will also measure heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, oxygen sat, body temperature, and position and movement of the body. And, if you’ve been sitting too long, the bra will even send a push notification to tell you to take a walk!

Alicia Chong Rodriguez aims to close the gender gap in cardiovascular research with a smart bra that can track and support women’s heart health. PHOTO: TED.com and Alicia Chong Rodriguez
One company (EmGlare) wants to make wearable tech a no-hassle and simple everyday thing. You don’t have to do anything special, no on/off you simply wear their smart clothes and the clothes will watch your health. PHOTO: emglare.com

Another product worth mentioning, especially during the Covid crisis, is the Hug Shirt which uses haptic technology (like when your smartphone vibrates) to send a hug over a distance. The Hug Shirt uses actuators that are embedded in the shirt to recreate the sensation of touch. If your mouth is agape right now, it should be, because it’s really incredible! It goes something like this… the shirt connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth and uses the Hug Shirt app to record a hug just like recording a movie. The app then delivers the hug data over the network to the receiver’s phone, and it is immediately transmitted via Bluetooth to their Hug Shirt. Texting is so old school!

If you have ever wondered whether your Eagle Pose is spot on, then wonder no more there’s a smart technology for that too in the form of Smart Yoga Pants. These are Bluetooth leggings by Nadi X with embedded sensors and haptic technology that will follow along through your yoga session and provide feedback with gentle vibrations on the body. Don’t worry if your preference is hot yoga as the pants are washable and dryable!

Smart clothing is making its way into every aspect of our lives… from yoga to hugs! PHOTOS: (Left) WearableEX.com and (Right) CuteCircuit.com

You can imagine that with wearable technology there are just so many useful applications, and it starts with a “What if…” And, manufacturers are responding with everything from radiation blocking boxers, to smart socks that keep tabs on baby’s heart rate and respiration. There’s a smart leather belt that monitors waist size, fall risk, and activity as well as smart socks and gloves to regulate heat. There’s even a smart fitness shirt and socks that will monitor sports activity and provide tips and feedback.

But not all smart wearable technology is focused on health or fashion. Some are designed specifically for the safety of the wearer. Take the “Dress for Respect” which is a collab between soda maker Schweppes and ad agency Ogilvy to make a point about sexual harassment. This smart dress was designed to sense and track moments of where and when the wearer was touched. In the video campaign produced by Ogilvy, three Brazilian women wear the dress into a nightclub where the positions and intensities of when and where the women are touched are recorded throughout the evening. In less than 4 hours the women are touched inappropriately 157 times and these touches can be viewed as a heat map. The live research is published in the video, where Schweppes encourages men to rethink their behavior and approach women with more respect.

So, look down at the clothing you’re wearing right now because it will soon be considered “vintage” without some kind of smart technology woven in. Welcome to the future because it is now! We hope your New Year is off to a fantastic start and we’ll see you in the next blog!

Deb Fries works a Julianna Rae in customer service and writes for the blog at JuliannaRae.com