Technology has been slow to make its way into textiles, according to Myant Inc.’s director of marketing Gagan Gill, and it’s time for all of that to change.
The Canadian firm is doing its part to bring “textile computing” into the mainstream and usher in an era in which all clothing is connected and functional—though the technology takes a firm backseat to beautiful apparel design.
To further the textile computing movement, Myant has assembled a strong cross-disciplinary R&D team packed with experts in a variety of fields, including electrical, material sciences, biomedical and textile engineering. As with any company that has technology ambitions, the firm’s intellectual property includes dozens of patents that cover areas like textile development and knitting.
With smartphone usage skyrocketing, consumers are accustomed to being “always on,” paving the way for such connectivity to extend from the devices they carry to the garments that cloak their figures. Myant sees practical applications for smart clothing, according to Gill, and envisions a future in which garments are connected via the Internet of Things.
“Every minute biosignals are going out of your body, going unread,” Gill said. “There’s no practical way of collecting and using that data.”
While personal health monitoring of the kind provided by a Fitbit wearable is great for casual usage, Myant is focused on developing healthcare-grade solutions that could potentially eliminate the need for certain medical tests, Gill explained. The company’s SKIIN smart underwear, available for men and women, incorporates conductive yarns and medical-grade sensors that “measure your EKG all day long,” he said, noting their cost and quality are on par with comparable in-store products.
“Because garments cover a lot of real estate on the body, they can collect more and better data than a small device,” Gill said. Even more importantly, a ubiquitous garment like underwear helps ensure people who need to track their EKG comply; it’s easier to forget about strapping on a “smart” wristband or wristwatch than it is to slide into a daily pair of undies that “collects the information without you having to think about it.”
The idea of underwear performing a function may seem odd at first but it’s “not really reinventing the wheel, mostly just providing a better user experience for a problem that already exists,” Gill said, noting that the garment sends data to the wearer’s smartphone app. The benefit of a connected garment like the EKG underwear is that it could alert the wearer if it detects significant changes in vital signs.
Creating scalable smart clothing and conductive yarns presents numerous challenges, from ensuring compatibility on the body and durability as one component of a larger garment. Myant creates its functional, conductive yarns in-house in what head of R&D Milad Alizadeh, described as the “secret sauce.”
Myant produces the underwear, and other textile computing garments, in its full-service Canadian manufacturing facility that features a number of robotic knitting machines, in addition to weaving and cut-and-sew capabilities. The company will be exhibiting at the Apparel Textile Sourcing Canada show in late August.