What is Smart Clothing and Why You Should Try It
You have heard of smartwatches and smartphones, but what about smart clothes? Nowadays, we do not work for our clothes — our clothes work for us. Smart clothes, also known as high-tech clothing, smart wear, and electronic textiles, are designed to bring the user’s body and technology together. Like smartphones or watches, electronics built into clothing communicate with external devices through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. They are used for sports, fitness, medical care, or even entertainment.
Smart clothes have been around for a while. In a US Navy-funded project, Georgia Tech researchers began developing a Wearable Motherboard as early as 1996. Now, almost three decades later, smart clothes are hitting the shops and becoming increasingly popular in our daily lives.
Types of smart clothes
The fashion industry is fast-paced and brings us things we did not even know we needed, and designers are tasked with creating eye-catching pieces that consumers will love. Likewise, as the world becomes more tech-savvy, consumers are expecting more from everyday items, including their wardrobe. Tech companies and designers are jumping on the tech clothing trend and pushing the boundaries of what our clothes can do. From socks to activewear, and even runway fashion, some of our best-loved fashion brands are bringing technology to life with tech clothing.
1. Under Armour
Activewear brand Under Armour’s performance tech line, UA RUSH, is designed to make athletes better with every workout. UA RUSH™ clothing is built with mind blowing mineral-infused technology fabric that uses our own body heat to aid muscle recovery and resiliency while working out. The infrared material fights muscle fatigue even after workouts. As long as users wear UA RUSH™ clothing, their muscles receive nourishing heat to combat exhaustion. With UA RUSH™, wearers' energy is returned to them keeping them fit to fight through the toughest workouts.
2. Sensoria Smart Socks
Runners, rejoice! Sensoria smart socks are packed with pressure sensors that provide real-time foot-landing information to improve running form and reduce the risk of injury. They are the ultimate companion for runners looking to enhance their technique without getting hurt. Real-time alerts let users know whether they are striking the ground with the heel or ball of the foot, helping to reduce pressure on joints and avoid injuries to the heel. Sensoria smart socks are like a personal running coach, providing feedback and motivation to make it through each run.
3. Wearable X
Love yoga? Then you will love the tech clothing brand Wearable X. Using smart clothing technology, the brand offers a private wearable yoga coach to teach wearers step by step. Clothes are enhanced with embedded sensors that guide wearers through vibration and audio, ensuring their form is always on point. Wearable X makes it possible to practice yoga anywhere — just pack your favorite pair of Nadi X yoga pants and get started.
The tech behind smart clothes
Smart clothes look and feel like our everyday clothes, but they come with a technical twist. Some tech clothing uses advanced textiles with intricately interwoven circuits, whereas others add sensors or hardware to boost its functionality and track biometric and physical data like temperature and heart rate. Some smart clothes can connect to apps via a secondary device like a smartwatch, letting users keep track of their daily habits and workouts.
Benefits of wearing smart clothing
Smart clothing may seem like a cool gimmick, but there are real benefits, too. Let’s take a look at some ways smart clothing can enhance your lifestyle.
1. Monitors health conditions
Most people strive to live a healthy life, and tech clothing can help us achieve just that. Smart clothing can help people with existing health conditions keep an eye on their vital statistics. It can even flag potential health issues and can inform wearers of impending medical events.
2. Improved athletic performance
If you are curious to know how workouts benefit your body, smart clothing can help. Everybody wants to train at peak physical performance, and clothing technology can give us hints to help us improve. Smart clothing can track the data required to optimize performance and keep our bodies in top shape.
3. Better sleep
A good night’s sleep can do wonders for our productivity, mood, and overall health. Smart clothing can monitor a person’s sleep quality including when they fall asleep, wake up, and how many times they wake up during the night. This helps people struggling with irregular sleep patterns or insomnia to track their sleep quality through movements at night.
Downsides of wearing smart clothing
With benefits come downsides. Is smart clothing really as useful as we think? Do we really need to shell out money on the latest wearable tech? Let’s consider some downsides of wearing smart clothing.
1. High costs
Those who expect the latest tech at a budget price may be disappointed. Technology costs, especially when it is full of intricate circuits and fibers. As such, potential smart clothing wearers should be prepared to pay premium prices for the luxury. Depending on the brand, if a regular jacket costs US $100, we can expect to pay between US $200 - $500 for additional smart tech.
2. Privacy concerns
As with most smart technology, clothing tech relies on personal data to do its job. Smart clothing may not be suitable for people who are concerned with privacy and how their sensitive information is tracked and stored. Moreover, it is impossible to know how much data a garment collects when it is not being worn.
3. Disrupts daily life
Technology usually hums along quietly in the background, but wearable tech is literally on our bodies for a large part of the day or night. It also processes our personal data and sends feedback or notifications based on the results. Users can expect to make some slight lifestyle changes to adapt to their new wardrobe additions. Moreover, as most smart garments are designed with electronic components, washing them may be another concern.
How to pick the right smart clothes for me
Choosing tech clothing is a personal decision that depends on a person’s everyday lifestyle. Athletes may prefer garments that track their heart rate and performance, whereas those with health issues may want something to monitor vital statistics and medical episodes. Runners prone to injury or those looking to improve their form would benefit from smart socks with built-in sensors. Importantly, wearers should be comfortable with their choice, style, and fabric. Clothes that itch or scratch are annoying at best and uncomfortable at worst, so be sure to try before you buy.
Smart clothing is not a future vision — it is a current reality. Like smartphones or other wearables, smart clothing is becoming part of everyday life. Clothing tech can monitor our health and sports performance and can even help enhance our sleep quality. Smart garments may seem confusing, but they are no different from standard clothes. With ever-advancing technology, built-in functions and intelligent features are comfortable and subtle, letting you operate at peak performance all day, every day. Let your clothing work for you with integrated technology.
Jeni is a translator and writer based in Taiwan. She is passionate about business development and loves helping companies enter international markets. She is fluent in English, German, and Mandarin Chinese, and combines these with her industry experience to provide practical market entry solutions.