The biggest challenge with smart apparel and accessories, is creating pieces that are both functional and fashionable. Wearing bulky batteries just isn’t practical for daily wear and tear, and much of what we’ve seen so far isn’t that stylish either.
According to Global Market Insights, the global market for smart apparel is forecast to exceed $4 billion by 2024. For companies that can get it right, the potential is huge. While the biggest benefits for customers are mostly linked to health and/or athletic performance, smart apparel retailers will have loads of data to help customise recommendations, improve their products, and drive future innovation.
Let’s have a look at some of the latest products disrupting the smart apparel market…
SKIINCore: The world’s first wire-free heat technology garment
Just in time for winter, the Canadian engineers behind SKIINCore have developed knitwear (a long sleeved top and leggings) that can be controlled with your smartphone. The base layer switches on automatically, and will adapt to movement- it will also turn off if it senses the body is getting too warm. A 56g battery keeps the fabric warm for up to eight hours, using conductive yarn placed between a synthetic inner layer and a wool outer layer.
Digitsole: The leader in connected insoles
Keeping with the same theme, French company Digitsole has released the first connected heated insoles controlled by your smartphone. The insoles track your daily physical activity and regulate the temperature in your shoes between 20°C and 45°C. A battery keeps the insoles heated from 2 to 8 hours depending on the usage, and the app tracks your fitness levels in real time.
Oura: Sleep tech at your fingertips
Finnish startup Oura offer a comfortable and stylish smart ring that collects the data you need to better understand your body. With 24/7 tracking the Oura ring aims to improve your sleep and activity levels, helping to maintain a balanced lifestyle. Sensors register body temperature, infrared LEDs measure blood volume pulse and a 3D accelerometer monitors your activity. This data is fed back to the app, providing you with the information you need to improve your well-being.
Wearable X: Activated yoga apparel to improve your practice
NYC based Wearable X aims to create a better quality of life through experience and fashion. Their tech infused yoga leggings utilise accelerometers and haptic motors to detect poses and guide your practice through gentle vibrations. The ‘Pulse’ (a small battery) clips behind the left knee activating the woven-in technology, and Bluetooth connects the leggings with a smartphone app.
Innovation in smart apparel is accelerating at a rapid pace, with new and improved products being launched all the time. The batteries used to power the technology are becoming less bulky and more discreet, but there’s not many products that don’t have some sort of battery setup.
The good news is, scientists are getting closer to finding a way to eliminate them altogether. An engineering team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered a technology that can store energy in fabric without the use of power cells. Providing the method will be cost-effective for scaling to mass production, this will allow manufacturers to make smart apparel sleeker, and likely more appealing to a wider audience.
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