Are smart clothes necessary in your everyday life? Most certainly not, but the same could be said about almost any device with smartphones included. Maybe smart clothes are not necessary, but they’re nevertheless very useful. Their purpose is to make your life easier, and most of them are definitely worth a shot.
To choose your smart clothes wisely, it’s good to know the overall scope of technologically enabled clothing. Most of them are designed for a wide target audience — everybody will find something just for themselves. That’s why there’s a big variety of products from this category on the market. And certainly not everyone will need a smart ring, smart finger or smart socks.
Increasing connectivity led many thinkers to believe that at some point in the development of human civilization, there will be more smart devices connected to the internet than there are people on the whole planet. This prediction came true a few years ago. Moreover, it became a functioning reality all around us, and its name is Internet of Things (IoT). This name includes all products which are everyday objects, but possess some form of internet or Bluetooth connectivity. Smart clothes are getting to be more and more important part of this giant business. Their worldwide market cap was over 1.6 billion dollars in 2019, and this number has certainly increased from that time.
In most cases, IoT objects (or, simply put, smart devices like smart shirts or smartwatch) tend to base on an existing concept with some traditional functions assigned to it. Smart devices enhance these functions using the newest technological discoveries like miniaturized sensors and chips. They take advantage of very basic characteristics of a traditional object. There are some exemplary cases of this process — let’s look into one of them.
The role of a classic wristwatch is to tell you the time. A smartwatch does exactly the same, but simultaneously it takes advantage of direct contact with your skin. Designers saw a big window of opportunity there, and used it to implement a variety of microchips and sensors which can read basic vital signs. That’s basically how a smartwatch was developed — from a conventional item to modern, high-tech design.
Smart clothing, in some sense, can be even better than a smartwatch at reading vital signs. There’s a simple reason for that. Objects like shirts or trousers are generally closer to the most important organs in your body than a smartwatch. That’s why sensors embedded in smart clothes can provide much more accurate data. But before we go into details regarding pros and cons of smart clothes, let’s look into various types of them. As we see, there’s basically no limit to designers’ imagination.
”Smart” features can be added to almost any clothing imaginable. The reason for this is simple. Clothes are worn on the user's body. That’s why their smart versions can perform basic tasks like GPS tracking — they’re always present, even more than a smartphone. Although some smart clothes overlap other wearables’ functions, there are some that are unique and irreplaceable.
The most popular technology enabled clothing on the market are:
All of them introduce various types of connectivity and sensor implementation. Their basic function is to gather data about your body, and send it via Bluetooth to a special app on your smartphone. Even if that doesn’t sound particularly high-tech in 2021, the types of data which can be gathered by these devices are sometimes truly surprising. They range from basic vital functions to quite specialized medical information which can help their users with early disease prevention. Needless to say, some of them can be quite mundane and only brand-related. That’s why it’s important to choose your smart clothes wisely — its features should fit your personal needs as closely as possible.
Let’s find out what exactly are some of the most popular products in the technology enabled clothing market.
Although the phrase “smart socks” may sound a bit odd, there are devices on the market that can read data regarding pressure received by your feet during a run or even a walk. The socks gather that information via sensors and microchips, and send it on your smartphone. With it, you can easily tell if your running form needs any corrections — proper body balance is one of the most important aspects in every sports activity.
What other product can track your GPS better than your shoes, especially during jogging? With smart shoes, you don’t even have to take a smartphone with you — running-related data like the distance you’ve made, number of steps, average speed or predicted amount of burnt calories can be stored in the shoes and transferred to your phone after you return home. Isn’t that convenient?
It’s worth mentioning that smart shoes are made not only by sports gear and clothes manufacturers. Some time ago, Pizza Hut made their own. Although they cannot track your steps or measure running speed, you can order pizza with them — with the help of a special, smart button sewn into one of them.
Most of their features really come in handy during workouts — usually that’s the time when you’re most interested in your body’s performance and results. Fitness data is collected by sensors in devices like smart shirts, then transferred to a smartphone app which interprets it, provides feedback to the user, and even can suggest better or entirely new ways of sports activity. The suggestions are made on the basis of overall prior workouts.
The data collected by this kind of sportswear has certain advantages over “traditional” wearable technology — usually its sensors are physically closer to the chest than smart bands, smartwatches and other similar devices. That’s why their reading may be more accurate.
A few years ago a smart jacket with special heating pads inside was merely a distant technological dream. Nowadays, that dream became reality — and not only with regard to heating. Smart jackets can charge phones, prevent their loss, let you control music playlists without you having to reach for a smartphone… The set of their functionality is constantly increasing, and there’s a good reason for that. The smart clothing market is only starting to grow. In a few years, they will become the same standard as today smart bands or smartwatches are.
It’s never easy to answer tech questions — the subject matter is subject to constant change. Despite that, smart clothing and its rapid popularization can be interpreted as the next step on the road of making our lives more connected and convenient. The Internet of Things has become our reality, and we can benefit from it a lot.