Innovation & Technology
The smart clothing market is set to grow as consumers look forward to revolutionary products.
Wearable technology is commonly associated with a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. That’s not really surprising as wrist wear devices currently dominate the wearable tech market with an estimated 210 million units forecasted to be shipped by 2021, according to research firm IDC. However, wearable tech has now gone beyond the wrist and into everything from shirts, pants and even socks.
Smart clothing, also known as e-textiles and smart garments, hasn’t quite made a dent in the market the way smartwatches have. However, the time is coming when our clothes, through conductive threads and embedded technology, will do so much more than keep us decent and protect us from the elements.
According to a survey by American College of Sports Medicine, wearable technology is the top fitness trend in 2017 for the second year in a row. With such strong interest in fitness and health, it’s not surprising that many of the smart clothing options already in the market tend to skew towards that demographic.
Some examples include Under Armour’s smart sleepwear that has an infrared pattern on the inside of the clothing that absorbs infrared wavelengths and reduces inflammation while you sleep, and the Neviano UV Protect swimsuit collection from Spineli Design that monitors the temperature and warns you when it’s time to re-apply sunscreen or get under an umbrella.
Smart technology is not just limited to your health, though. With ever advancing science and technology, companies are just scratching the surface of what these products can do. A highly anticipated example of connected clothes is the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket, a collaboration with Google’s Project Jacquard. The outerwear has a removable tag on the sleeve that allows you to launch apps on your phone, navigate the streets or answer a call without having to reach for your phone. A beta version is being tested and the jacket is set to be launched sometime this year.
High-tech clothing is also being developed right here in Asia. South Asian apparel and textile manufacturer MAS Holdings has partnered with tech manufacturing giant, Flex, to design and create wearable technologies. They have launched Firefly active wear, a collection of clothes with embedded LED lights that flash in a pattern to look like a moving person, in order to enhance safety in dark conditions. “This exciting collaboration with Flex is the next iteration, enabling us to work together by integrating technology into apparel and delivering revolutionary products to the consumer,” said Mahesh Amalean, chairman of MAS Holdings.
While the marriage of fashion and tech is still in its infancy, all signs are pointing to a healthy future. Research firm IDC forecasts that overall shipments of smart clothing will grow to 22.3 million units in 2021, representing a compounded annual growth rate of 76.6% between 2016 and 2021.
“Tech companies will be forced to step up their game and offer a wider selection of sizes, materials and designs in order to appeal to a broader audience. We also expect more tech vendors to partner with fashion brands for their creativity, and equally important, their distribution network. In doing so, wearables will be made available to a previously unaware audience – one that frequents fashion outlets over tech outlets,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.
Paul Dillinger, Levi’s vice president of Global Product Innovation, is equally optimistic about the future of smart garments. “As the pace of digital deployment accelerates and nearly anything can be digitally enabled, we’ll become less and less reliant on these special gadgets, like smartphones, that are responsible for the entirety of our digital lives. I like to say: Once everything can do something, nothing will have to do everything.”