Looking Smart – Technology You Can Wear

Peter McNamara

Smart clothes are those enhanced with technology to add functionality beyond traditional use. Most smart clothes are made from advanced textiles with interwoven circuitry. Sensors and additional hardware can also be embedded for further smart functionality. Also known as high-tech clothing, smart wear, smart fabrics, or electronic textiles, smart clothes can connect to apps on smartphones or devices such as laptops and PCs via bluetooth or wi-fi. Via their sensors, these garments collect activity metrics and key biometrics, depending on what functions are programmed to perform. The data is then sent to AI-powered apps.
You might have already heard the term “wearable” – that actually refers to fitness trackers, such as those made by Garmin or Fitbit. “Wearable” is also used when talking about high-tech accessories such as smartwatches, like the Apple Watch. Smart clothes refer only to advanced clothing such as swimsuits, shorts, t-shirts, or hats (like bluetooth beanies).
In general, due to the extra costs required to embed technology in smart clothes, they’re much pricier than traditional clothing. After first popping to the surface in 2015, the “e-textile and smart clothing” market segment is still looming in the sidelines. That said, more and more companies are using innovative technology to create connected garments. Will they become part of the fabric of society? The businesses that make them would certainly like to have it all sewn up!
Athletic Androids
Under Armour have come up with an interesting Athlete Recovery clothing line. This garment absorbs heat from the body and then reflects it back onto the wearer’s skin. The absorbed heat is converted into far-infrared light, and recent studies show how important infrared light is for the human body. Overall, if
you’re a top-level athlete looking to enhance your muscle recovery and relaxation, this is a must-have smart clothing piece.
Athos is a patented system that can measure exactly how hard your muscles are working. The science of EMG (Electromyography) is combined with powerful AI and a mobile app gives you insights to truly understand how your body performs. The system has helped athletes at all levels train better and smarter, whatever your goal.
Clothes that Alter You
Most fitness-related items of wearable technology that we’ve seen so far have monitored biometrics and tracked data about workouts, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way in which technology can be used in the sports world.
The FITGuard is a mouth guard which is designed to be worn by sportsmen and women who enjoy potentially dangerous sports such as rugby or hurling. This mouth guard measures the impact of blows which the wearer receives, alerting the medics and team officials if the blow is so hard that it might require medical attention. Given the ongoing concerns around player concussions, and undetected brain damage, the FITGuard could end up saving lives.
The smart clothes with the most profound potential benefits might be those developed for people with some kind of physical impairment. Enter VEST. It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the VEST is, in fact, a vest. This is taking wearable technology in a literal sense, mirroring foundation garments rather than just being a fashion accessory. However, far from being boring, arguably the VEST (which stands for Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer) is having a more worthwhile impact on the world than most of the other items on this list. This wearable vest uses technology to combine different sensors in the wearer. In other words they learn to associate various touches with certain words or objects. In turn, this is changing the lives of blind and deaf people; this technology has already allowed people who have lost their sight to conquer an obstacle course, so it really is opening up a whole new world of possibilities.
The super-smart VEST could genuinely change the lives of the physically impaired.
Likewise, the medical field is one of the most intriguing and fascinating areas into which wearable technology is expanding. None more so than the Quell, which is a powerful, effective pain reliever that is entirely drug-free. It is a small, unassuming strap which wraps around the painful limb in question. It stimulates nerves, and in doing so the brain is tricked into releasing chemicals that relieve pain. This remarkable piece of wearable technology could change the lives of millions of chronic pain sufferers around the world forever.
The Emperor’s New (Smart) Clothes
Some ideas are less useful. Belty is a motorised belt buckle which automatically loosens or tightens depending on how much you eat, bloat or grow. There’s no longer any need to undo your top button
after the Christmas dinner, because this belt does all the hard work for you
Branded as a “window into your dog’s day”, the Whistle is a device which can be strapped to their collar which tracks their movement, location and fitness levels. It seems as though this is the first step towards bringing our pets into the health conscious 21st Century as well. Good for them, I suppose.!

Levis has jumped on the bandwagon with its own “commuter trucker jacket”. By building touch and gesture sensitive areas on the jacket sleeve, wearers are able to interact with a variety of services including music and map apps. You can dismiss phone calls with a swipe or double-tap to get directions – all without reaching for your phone. I’m amazed humanity has gotten this far without it.
The Neviano UV Protect swimsuit collection is equipped with a removable medallion-style waterproof sensor that stops you from staying too long in the sun. Once you’ve entered your skin type in the companion iOS or Android smartphone app, it’ll monitor the temperature throughout the day. Then, it sends out warnings when it is time to apply more sunscreen or get into the shade. It seems to this reporter that those in need of such a suit to deliver basic health and safety instructions might be worth culling from the herd altogether. Research resources
might be better spent elsewhere.

Some developments are more scary than silly. Contactless payment is nothing new in the world of technology – simply place your bank card over a sensor and the payment comes straight off. The scheming folk at Barclaycard have taken this one step further by turning contactless payment systems into something wearable, in the form of a wrist strap. There isn’t even a need to get the card out anymore, because in many ways the strap acts like a card itself. There has been some discussion over whether or not this will enable fraudsters. It seems people are happy to take the risk so they wear their filthy lucre.
Google Glass is a brand of smart glasses, an optical head-mounted display designed in the shape of a pair of glasses. It was developed by X (previously Google X) with the mission of producing a ubiquitous computer. If the increasingly less fictional film ‘Terminator’ is coming to anyone’s mind, you’re not alone. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like, hands-free format. Wearers communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands. Indeed, there would be no escape.
Google started selling a prototype of Google Glass to qualified “Glass Explorers” in the US way back in 2013, for a limited period for $1,500, before it became available to the public soon afterward. Arriving as it did with a 5 megapixel video camera, the headset received immediate criticism. Concerns have been raised by various sources regarding the intrusion on privacy, and the etiquette and ethics of using the device in public and recording people without their permission. Privacy advocates are also concerned that people wearing such eyewear may be able to identify strangers in public using facial recognition, or surreptitiously record and broadcast private conversations.
Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, claims that Glass could be seen as a way to become more connected and less isolated in public. Brin views checking social media as a constant “nervous tic”, which is why Glass
can notify the user of important notifications and updates and does not obstruct the line of sight, thank goodness for that.
Some companies in the US have posted anti-Google Glass signs in their establishments. Far from being courageous “glass explorers”, users have been bestowed the nickname of “Glassholes.” It seems that people can see right through Google’s latest ploy for world domination.