4 clever wearable ideas for the smart clothing of the future

The emergence of smart wearable devices is moving technology out from the palm of our hands and onto the sleeves of ours shirt, if you are to believe the most starry-eyed predictions of some industry insiders.

Wearables have long been touted as the future of smart tech. But whilst wristwatches, smart glasses and headphones are slowly becoming the norm, smart textiles is an area which is as-yet to find its “killer app”. Could that be about to change?

In order to try to guess what might be coming in the as-yet untapped realm of textile-based smart wearable technology, let's consider a few ideas that might be focused upon by some of the world's most innovative developers in the future.

Color changing clothes

You have likely already seen shirts that can change color based on heat or ambient lighting. These color-changing textiles are becoming fairly popular as they offer a chance to easily set your style apart from the rest of the pack. This same technology is being used to develop clothes that can change color on cue, rather than through passive stimuli like body heat or environment.

Early prototypes do exist. Researchers have already developed a yarn that has a copper wire in the middle contained by a polymer sleeve. The sheath contains pigments that are already in-use in color-changing clothes. The wire, gives its user the ability to vary the temperature of the pigment slightly, changing its hue.

As long as the controller for the shirt knows the exact pattern of a textile, it can create special patterns all across the surface.

Insights into physical improvement

Fitness and wellness are key drivers of the wearables industry at the moment. It seems like an obvious niche, but that does not mean that every wearable in the health market is a perfect fit. Take fitness trackers, for example. Nearly 1-in3 of the people who buy them eventually stop wearing them.

That ultimately suggests that the data or benefit from these devices did not provide a good enough payoff for them to keep putting them on when they get up every morning. Enter the physical improvement segment.

Textile-based wearables may be able to help if you are trying to improve your golf swing or kick a football better. If you want to know what your body is doing, you could have sensors all over your body. It follows that they could simply be integrated into the clothes people are already wearing.

Industrial engineers have already been developing motion sensors which are incredibly thin. These can be embedded into sleeves of shirts or into the bottom of shoes. What could be simpler?

The sensors would have to be powered by small batteries and fairly easily integrated into any clothing that is not too thin. As the technology improves, these sensors will reduce in size even more and could soon even be woven into the fabric itself.

Fashion and wearables

Smart wearable tech and fashion seems like a perfect match up. Whether it be the color-changing application mentioned above or textiles that light up, smart textiles seem like the natural evolution of the cutting-edge textile industry.

Designers have already crafted clothes made from fiber optic strands which allow the user to control their appearance with just a few clicks.

OLEDs are also so tiny at this point that they are as thin as a normal fiber found in a textile. This means they can be woven inside a fabric and the user won’t feel the difference unless they are on. Such devices open up a world of opportunity, including visual feedback, notifications, social interactions and much more.

Wearable textiles are headed to the forefront of wearable tech, some say. They will likely be less expensive than you might imagine, too. Keep an eye out for a jumper that could help you fix your golf swing or shoes that help you run faster. Smart wearable tech is the future.

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