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These days, technology is everywhere we go. From our ovens and our thermostats to our phones and cars, it seems like everything’s getting smart. The newest development in the world of smart technology? Smart clothing.
What is smart clothing, and what possibilities does it open up in the worlds of health and safety? Aside from that, how long will it be until my clothes can just tell me what I should wear on this date? Well, friends, it’s not long now; read on to learn more.
The Internet of Things
When we talk about “smart” devices, be they watches, thermostats, or clothes, what we’re really talking about is the Internet of Things, or IoT.
Whereas the internet we usually refer to is made up of different interconnected websites, IoT consists of items that can talk to each other through sensors and small computers. Whether you realize it or not, you’re already surrounded by the IoT, and it’s making your life way better.
How many times a day do you check the rings on your smartwatch to make sure you’re meeting your fitness goals? Every time your thermostat turns itself up so the house is warm before you get home, you’re using IoT. It’s even helping to save workers’ lives in factories – find more info here about air filtration technology.
The Beginning of Wearable Tech
The idea of making items smart has been around a long time; any of the devices on Star Trek are proof of that. So when did that idea migrate from making household or handheld items smart to making our clothing smart? You may be surprised to learn that this idea isn’t new either – take another look at the communicators on Star Trek.
In truth, the beginnings of wearable technology date all the way back to the 1500s, when a German inventor created a watch that you could wear on a necklace. Yes, watches are technology, and we do wear them. Calculator watches released in the 1980s and even hearing aids fall into the category of wearable technology.
The advent of modern wearable tech came sometime in the early aughts, when a company called CuteCircuit unveiled the HugShirt in 2004. This shirt would sense when one wearer wrapped their arms around themselves and would give the other wearer in the pair a “hug.” In 2009, Fitbit began production, and in 2015, Apple released its smartwatch.
What is Smart Clothing?
So if we’re already surrounded by wearable technology, what makes this newest smart tech so special? The answer is that companies are now able to incorporate digital sensors seamlessly into the fabric of clothing. These are tiny RFID chips and other sensors that can keep up with a wide variety of information about your body or the clothes.
This clothing can do anything from monitor your health to suggest what you wear on a night out. It can help make life easier for soldiers and the elderly by forming an exoskeleton when needed. It can make sure you never again have to say the phrase, “What have I done with my shoes?”
How Smart Clothing Works
Some companies have flexible circuitry that can be woven into fabric without compromising its softness or drape. Others have sensors placed at strategic points throughout the clothing to help monitor things like heart rate and body temperature. What the sensors do depends entirely on the application of the clothes.
Some sensors keep track of your body movements and stabilize the clothing in strategic points to help support you. Others track vital signs, something smartwatches and Fitbits have been doing for years. (And in case you were worried, none of the smart clothing pieces find weak spots on your body and transmit them to Russian snipers.)
Uses for Health and Safety
Smart clothing can do a lot to improve health and safety for almost anyone. For the elderly and disabled, smart clothing can remain soft and flexible while they’re sitting down and can constrict and help provide support at key points in the legs and back when they stand up. It could also monitor their heart rhythms and alert medical personnel in case of an emergency.
For you fitness nuts out there, smart clothes are the next in health monitoring technology. Imagine if your yoga pants could keep up with your heart rate and how many calories you’ve burned, and give you feedback on whether you’re executing that pose right. Smart running shoes can keep up with how many miles you’ve run in the shoes and provide feedback on your gait and form.
Of course, smart clothing has leisure uses as well as practical ones; after all, what’s the fun in new tech that we can’t play with? Smart clothing could keep track of which items you put on and provide styling tips based on where you’re going and what you’re wearing. Imagine your blazer telling you, “You should really wear me with the navy pants, not the black.”
Smart clothing could also become an all-access pass that you never have to worry about losing. It could be your ticket to a football game or your key to your office building. And fifteen years later, smart clothing can still help you give a hug to a friend who’s hundreds of miles away.
Find More of the Latest News
The question, “What is smart clothing?” is one we’re going to be answering for the next several (dozen) decades. As technology continues to evolve, we keep finding new ways to use it to make our lives easier. Smart clothing is the latest frontline in that crusade, so keep an eye out; it’s coming to a store near you soon.
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