From outfits to wearables, mapping the 'smart clothing' journey
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From outfits to wearables, mapping the ‘smart clothing’ journey

From outfits to wearables, mapping the ‘smart clothing’ journey

Many of today’s smart clothes use connectivity with another device to analyse data but there are others which are self-contained and react independently

It wasn’t too long ago that ‘smart/casual’ was nothing more than a dress code at the bottom of a party invitation. However, smart clothing as we know it now in terms of technology has made giant strides over a relatively short space of time. It is no wonder that smart watches and wristbands have become an everyday accessory rather than exception, with shipments of smart watches expected to be 100 million in 2021 alone.

Of course, with any applied science, progression is the natural course of innovation, and fitness and wellbeing have been the overriding factors in the meteoric rise in smart devices. But with the advances in clothing technology, we are now looking at a much broader range of capabilities. From biometric shirts and contactless payment jackets to diagnostic socks and UV warning swimsuits.

While research into combining textiles and artificial intelligence has been ongoing for some time, it is relatively recently that we have had the knowledge and the materials to translate that into practice. The integration of textiles and sensors is now both more efficient and more affordable, and the development of conductive thread could possibly also turn the fashion industry on its head.

Some of the world’s largest designer brands have launched their own smart clothing and while the high street will definitely benefit, some would argue that aspect is not exploiting the true potential of smart clothing. Consumer demand however, is often the driver for creation and invention on a wider scale.

Many of today’s smart clothes use connectivity with another device to gather and analyse data but there are others which are self-contained and react independently without the need to ‘report back’. This intelligent wardrobe includes self-regulating thermal shirts and muscle relaxants and could well set the scene for the future.

Comfort and convenience on an individual level will always be a part of smart clothing’s appeal but the technology and its application in industry, medicine and the military are most likely to dominate its direction. That looks set to grow exponentially as the global smart fabrics market rises from an estimated at $3.6bn today to reach $11.4bn by 2027.

Armies across the world are adopting and adapting smart clothing as a battle-ready uniform that gives them a distinct advantage over their enemies. Sensors in uniforms can monitor heart and respiration rates, muscle data, and temperature to gauge a soldier’s health and even identify wounds. In modern warfare, it also acts as an immediate detector of radiation, chemicals, viruses and bacteria. It may not be an everyday concern for most of us but for national defence it is becoming a next generation essential.

In terms of safeguarding, medical diagnosis and aids to recovery, smart clothes are also making a massive mark. From hats and socks which monitor a baby’s oxygen intake to algorithm powered bionic clothing for people with mobility difficulties, the age of digital clothing is here to stay.

Meanwhile, our newest foray into the smart ‘wearing’ sector was announced at Inno Day 2021, the company’s annual two-day tech event. We’ve already seen technology make and receive calls and send messages through a shirt sleeve and check our temperature with a glance at a watch. Smart connectivity has extended to the clothes we wear, the cars we drive and the homes we live in. The original James Bond laser cufflinks may have been high-tech weapons at the time, but he wouldn’t have been able to go to that smart/casual party and dim the lights with a tug of his bow tie.

Tarek Zaki is the senior product manager at OPPO MEA

Read: Here’s how OPPO is meeting the UAE consumer’s demands

Also read: How the OPPO Reno6 Series raises the bar for smartphone cameras

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