Whether you call them wearables, fitness trackers or group them under the “wearable technology” umbrella, the gadgets that can track your heart rate, monitor sleeping patterns, count miles walked, and in some cases, update your social media feeds, became the darling of the apparel industry delivering a new class of fashion innovation.
According to data from Futuresource Consulting, demand for wearable technology shows no signs of stopping. Third quarter 2013 global shipments of wearables increased 40 percent to 12.7 million units from 9 million in Q3 2013. And thanks to new smartwatches, namely by Apple, demand in 2015 is expected to reach a new level of fury. The consulting group estimates the wearable technology market will grow 44 percent in 2015, bringing the total units shipped to 74 million worldwide.
Here’s a closer look at the trailblazing innovations that helped put wearables on the radar of both fashionistas and geeks in 2014.
Technology isn’t just for handheld devices anymore. The results of a recent study by Forrester Research indicates that 2015 is expected to be a breakout year for wearable technology, as the category’s innovations become more and more appealing to consumers. The report revealed that the number of people using a wearable computer will nearly triple in 2015, bolstered by the anticipated arrival of Apple Watch, which is projected to draw 10 million users next year.
From 3D printing, intelligent robot, and open source design, industry insiders believe the garment industry should prepare for “the disruptive information of design and manufacturing.” Catch up on the recently introduced technologies poised to turn our current system of sourcing and manufacturing on its head in this in-depth technology report.
3. DuPont Introduces Stretchable Inks for Wearable Technology
With the wearable tech trend taking off, innovators are getting savvier about ways to make smart wear seamless and simple to manufacture. Leading the charge is DuPont Microcircuit Materials, a leading innovator and electronic ink supplier, which has introduced a suite of stretchable electronic ink materials that can be used to make smart clothing that’s more moveable, washable and wearable.
Ralph Lauren is serving biometrics on the tennis court with its new Polo Tech shirt. Equipped with sensors knitted into the core of the product that can read biological and physiological information, the compression shirt is designed to improve the wearer’s general wellness and increase personal fitness. The shirt was developed with proprietary technology from Canadian-based OMsignal, which offers a platform that delivers a variety of physiological data through seamless apparel directly to the users via an app on their smartphone. The data collected by the shirt is stored by a “black box,” which transmits the information into a cloud where it is plugged into algorithms that reads heartbeat and respiration, as well as stress level and energy output.
A research team at Australia’s University of Wollongong (UOW) is changing the way the industry views “One Size Fits All” garments with a new prototype called the Bionic Bra. The bra, which has the ability to change size depending on the movement of the wearer, is made using intelligent components and built-in actuators and sensing technologies that can sense breast motion and provide additional support during vigorous activities.
Microsoft is jumping on the wearable technology bandwagon, literally, with its new Microsoft Band. The adjustable plastic band, outfitted with a 1.4-inch full color touch screen, covers all the bases expected of hi-tech accessories today: step tracking, heart and sleep monitoring and GPS features—but takes it up a notch with a UV sensor for the wearer to keep tabs on their sun exposure, and a skin temperature monitor that uses optical sensors, which are more accurate than audio sensors found in other brands’ bands. Wearers can even make their Starbucks purchases with the swipe of their wrist.
Activewear brand Adidas has launched Climachill, a revolutionary line of apparel with cooling technology that lowers the wearer’s body temperature. The clothing incorporates an innovative woven with titanium and 3D aluminum cooling spheres–an industry first–designed to keep athletes comfortable in warmer conditions and at their peak performance.
American fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger has ventured into the realm of wearable technology in a new partnership with Pvilion, a design and manufacturing company of photovoltaic (PV) solar products, to create a solar powered jacket. The limited edition jacket exclusively for the 2014 holiday season features seven detachable solar panels for the men’s jacket (10 for the women’s) that provide energy to power an array of electronic devices like mobile phones and tablets.
Garmatex, fabric innovator and supplier, announced the launch of its new advanced cooling fabric, IceSkin, designed to regulate the body’s temperature in extreme climates.
The fabric is made with natural jade minerals and Garmatex’s CoolSkin quick-dry microfiber filaments, which help to utilize the cooling effects of perspiration and lower the skin’s surface temperature. The jade minerals deflect the sun’s rays to keep the body cool and offer extreme UV protection. IceSkin is multi-layered, using a three-dimensional knitting process to keep its cooling technology working like new.
Fashion designers are lending their sartorial touch to wearable technology. On the heels of designer Diane von Furstenberg debuting a range Google Glasses in June, American lifestyle brand Tory Burch is launching an accessories collection exclusively designed for the Fitbit Flex, the wireless fitness tracker that monitors the number of steps taken by the wearer, the number of calories burned and their sleeping habits. The line includes a brass necklace and a brass bracelet inspired by Burch’s signature geometric fretwork patterns, and two printed silicone bands accented with pops of either pink or blue.