The world is witnessing a great spurt in the adoption of IoT and connected devices. Today, everything is becoming connected – from the TV at home, the shelf space in the grocery store to the machines in factories and the invisible wearables on your body.
Thanks to the decreasing form factor of chips and sensors, invisible wearables can seamlessly blend with anything – even with your regular clothes. A few examples that we know today are smart watches, smart jewelry, fitness trackers, smart clothing, head-mounted displays, etc. These can serve a host of purposes such as fitness, health, navigation, education, and global connectivity.
Recent developments in the wearables industry
Health and fitness are the one of the biggest drivers in the wearable market. But another category that is fast gaining momentum in the world of wearables, comprises smart clothing and smart fabrics.
AiQ Smart Clothing, a smart apparel manufacturer exhibiting at the Wearable Technology Show 2017, London, showcased a running outfit with embedded connected technology. The outfit is made with connective fabric that collects the wearer’s data (such as heart rate, respiration rate, and skin temperature), which are then conveyed to a smartphone or other device through a Bluetooth transmitter attached to the garment.
The infrastructure needed for such wearables is not in place yet and still requires considerable investment. Challenges also remain with integrating smart technology into clothes and simplifying the supply model to make smart apparel affordable for the mass market.
What are the clothes of the future like?
The majority of wearables today are fitness-focused hence most smart clothing provide benefits such as fitness metrics and detailed analysis of workouts. However, consumers also see smart clothing playing a role, beyond fitness tracking.
At the Paris Fashion Week last fall, designer Hussein Chalayan partnered with tech giant Intel to bring together fashion and technology in his Spring/Summer 2017 show. Visual projections of the data collected from the connected accessories were showed the wearers' stress levels on the wall beside them.
A general-purpose outfit, which could make standard devices like mobile phones outdated, will need to carry features that allow voice communication besides the activities one performs to locate places, manage stress, look out for family members, and discover opportunities. While some of them will be related to biological functions of the wearer, others may help connect to a wider computing network around the globe.
Smart accessories are also popular with consumers and they may be interested in wearable devices such as ‘exact measure’ which is can be a dress or shirt that is equipped with built-in sensors that take thousands of measurements of your body. This can be coupled with an app that can recommend clothing online which perfectly matches your shape.
What every-day experience might look like...
Millions of customers are already using smart devices, such as smart watches and FitBits and the wearables market has seen considerable growth in the recent years.
Smart technology has already entered jewelry, toys, and sports goods. We are considering a not-so-distant future, where wearables merge with smart homes. On your way back from the grocery store, your biometric signature can lead to a hands-free unlocking and once you step inside, indoor sensors can recognize the data from your wearable devices and regulate the air quality, temperature, and humidity through a smart heating and air-conditioning system.
Besides smart home management, patient monitoring and other such helpful processes for the population, wearable technology is set to break barriers in a number of areas. For example, displaying or sharing emotions with others using wearables will enable social interaction to be more effective. Such concepts can prove valuable and provide a voice for those with certain disabilities such as the inability to speak.
The hands-free data-exchange will also change the way consumers experience commercial communication and hence will be a game changer for customer services in industries like travel and tourism, hospitality, finance, healthcare, and related services such as insurance. With millennials becoming more tech-savvy, the idea of data exchange through regular items is likely to grow even faster -making the inter-personal and B2C communications more effortless and accurate and bringing a new level of efficiency to one's every-day life, be it at work or play.
The author is Manager – Digital Transformation Services, Sasken Technologies.