Smart clothing – True wearables

What is smart clothing?

Smart clothing really is much more than just apparel. It’s a fusion of fabric and technology. It has wiring and hardware, as well as sensors at various points embedded in the material. It connects to your smartphone and can track your biometric data. As a garment, it should be comfortable and nice. But it is capable to do things ordinary clothes can’t. It can give you feedback on your yoga poses with vibrations, control your music volume with gestures, and improve your muscle recovery with infrared light. Smart clothing is designed to enhance your convenience, comfort, health, and fitness. It’s clothing that serves a purpose.

How does smart clothing work?

Just like all the other wearables, in smart clothing, there are sensors. After all, you have to get the information to your AI. For that, it has different types of technologies embedded in the fabric or attached to the hardware of the garments. Some of these include the usual sensors, circuitry, and infrared. Something that is often used in smart clothing is haptics.

Haptic is a technology that creates a feeling of touch. It does this by using artificial forces like vibrations and motions to the user. It can create a sensation of actually touching or feeling the virtual object in front of you, and it is often used in advanced virtual gaming. Haptic devices can also include tactile sensors that measure forces exerted by you on the virtual object.

Wiring is used to create electrical connections between different components of the smart clothing, while the sensors are used to monitor biometric data such as heart rate, respiration, movement, or force. Depending on the purpose and design of the smart clothing, different combinations of these technologies can be used to create various functions and effects.

Charging smart clothes

An interesting feature when it comes to smart clothing is the charging. Because as clothes are big, at least compared to other small gadgets, and they often cover a substantial part of the body, they can sometimes be used for charging other devices. Instead of requiring current, they produce current.

Garments in the Wearable Solar collection by Pauline van Dongen are claimed to charge an average smartphone to 50% in just one hour.

Smart clothing can be charged in different ways depending on the type and design of the garments. Some smart clothing can use solar energy to generate electricity and charge devices. And there are other projects underway for harvesting the energy from the wearer’s movements and converting it into power.

Still, normally charging smart clothing is still a question about connecting your garment to some sort of power source. That is normally just like charging any other device via a USB cable and a power socket. Obviously, you need to take care to remove batteries, sensors, or circuitry from the clothes before charging if that is recommended. More about washing your smart clothings later.

Anyway, always read the manual and follow the instructions from the manufacturer.

What can smart clothing do?

smart clothings

Here we like to give you a few examples of what smart clothing can do. These are just examples of innovations, but the technology moves ahead rapidly. Especially for fibers and fabrics, the development of smaller and thinner in computer science has a huge impact on the products.

Nadi X yoga pants by Wearable X can sense your yoga poses and give you haptic feedback. The audio instructions are paired with gentle vibrations to tell you exactly where to focus. The built-in accelerometer will even let you know audibly if you have arrived at the pose you are aiming for.

Sensoria Fitness Socks by Sensoria can track your foot landing technique, cadence, speed, distance, and calories burned while running. It will then give you real-time audio feedback on what to correct and where to focus.

Neviano smart swimsuit by Spinali Design can measure UV exposure and alert you when to apply sunscreen via a vibrating device attached to the swimsuit. It even has a “Valentine” function: your partner is warned a few minutes before you so that he can make a good impression applying the sunscreen on your back.

Smart fiber

In recent years there has been a strong evolution in smart fibers. For clothing that is a new and very useful technique. Smart fibers are textile fibers that have special properties or functions, such as electrical conductivity, optical activity, biocompatibility, or shape memory. They can be used to create interactivity with the wearer, the environment, or other devices.

  • Metal-clad aramid fibers that conduct electricity can be woven into the fabric to create electrical connections or circuits. They can then be used for example to enable gesture control.
  • Optical fibers can be embedded into the fabric to create light effects or displays. They can create luminous clothing that can change colors or patterns.
  • Biocompatible fibers can be attached to the fabric to monitor biometric data or deliver drugs, and measure heart rate, respiration, movement, and sleep quality.
  • Shape memory fibers can be incorporated into the fabric to change shape or size in response to stimuli such as temperature, moisture, or electricity.

How do you wash smart clothes?

Smart clothing is washable in different ways. It all depends on the type and design. Some smart clothing is machine washable and dryable. Normally, smart clothing needs caution and some extra care, though. Hand washing, cold water, gentle cycle, etc.

Smart clothing spray-coated with hydrophobic molecules repels water, oil, and mud. These need extra care when washing. Most smart clothing has removable parts. You just remove these parts and wash the rest. Take care to dry the clothes well before attaching the electric pieces again.

With smart clothing the usual instruction to follow the instructions and precautions by the manufacturers before washing is crucial. When your normal favorite sweater would lose color if you wash it incorrectly, your smart sweater could be completely destroyed if you use the wrong cycle.

The future of smart clothing

The future of smart clothing is very bright, to say the least. With that, we mean that it certainly is expanding. The global market value in 2021 was $2,74 billion. The expected value for 2030 is $22.48 billion. That is an annual increase of an incredible 27%. Most of that growth is thought to be in the USA and within the sports and fitness sector.

The development of new materials is an important factor. Already today there are fabrics on the market that can harvest energy directly from a wearer’s motion. New types of fabric include for example triboelectric materials. These can generate electricity when bent or flexed. (Friction between different parts of the material builds up charge, like rubbing your hair against a balloon.) Piezoelectric materials, which produce a charge when squeezed or twisted, could be fashioned into outfits, too. There is just no limit to what smart technology can do to our clothes.

Lastly, clothes need to be beautiful, as well as comfortable. These are aspects that, for now, have been left in the background. Maybe future designers will reconquer the aspects of style and fashion for smart clothing as well