The concept of dressing smart is about to change. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing trainers, a suit or a chimpanzee onesie. Any garment can actually be very smart if made with the right technology, that is to say, if it is “intelligent clothing”.
While smart wearables like wristbands and watches are already popular gadgets amongst athletes and fitness enthusiasts, smart clothes are still in the initial stages of production. However there are a few smart wearable electronic garments out there, which are already able to track our heartbeat and rate, body temperature, performance, muscle activity and breathing.
In the longer run, the potential uses of smart clothes are as varied as our needs, our creativity and our imagination. Japan, The US and Europe are at the top of the list in countries researching and developing these garments.
Smart clothes for sport and health
There have also been prototypes of smart clothes for monitoring posture and movement in order to improve body postures or assist in rehabilitation after injury. The sports and fitness industry is one of the most interested in creating smart garments. The variety of such garments is rapidly growing, with shirts which track sleep patterns, trousers which warm our legs before exercise, bras which support the breast when most needed and shirts which offer feedback during training.
One very remarkable design which is still in production is a bra that could scan for breast cancer.
According to experts; hospitals, the military and rescue services have been amongst the sectors most interested in the development of such garments, but soon the industry will expand towards individual consumption.
Smart clothes for babies
AT&T and Exmovere are working on baby pyjamas with biosensors fitted to transmit critical vital signs such as heart rate, skin temperature, moisture and movement in order to prevent cot death.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the next wave includes a range of smart clothes for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Such garments could feasibly be used to keep track of a baby’s development inside the womb or of much milk your baby is getting from the breast.
Is it all positive?
Smart clothes may very well have an extremely positive impact on our health since they will be able to directly assist us in accurately tracking the state of our bodies. Nonetheless, there are other potential consequences which should be taken into account such as the potential impact on our privacy and mental wellbeing.
Using smart clothes will doubtless become a very popular trend amongst those interested in body image, fitness and health, and probably for a host of other reasons including numerous lifestyle niches. For some people smart clothes could also quite literally become life savers.
However, we might find that these garments manifest as yet another source of information glut in a society that’s already flooded with it. Getting undressed at night might come to mean taking off our connections, as well as our clothes.
Chan, Marie et al. (2012) Smart wearable systems: Current status and future challenges, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, Volume 56, Issue 3, 137 – 156.
Axisa, F., Schmitt, P., Gehin, C., Delhomme, G., McAdams, E., & Dittmar, A. (2005). Flexible Technologies and Smart Clothing for Citizen Medicine, Home Healthcare, and Disease Prevention IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine, 9 (3), 325-336 DOI: 10.1109/TITB.2005.854505
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