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Who will wear connected clothes?

There are many new wearable M2M applications coming to market. I talked about Nike smart shoes in my last blog but this is just one example of many.

Beecham Research attended the latest Wearable Technologies conference last week in San Francisco (see agenda covered at this link). This is an area with lots of ideas, developing quickly and these are not limited to the better-known applications in healthcare and sport. So in addition to smart shoes, there is stretchable electronics, targeted for example at monitoring babies. Then there’s head impact detection sensors to go on helmets – a sort of personal OnStar. Music while you swim can help to relieve the boredom of doing those pool lengths. Posture sensing to relieve back-ache. Wellness monitoring for an increasingly wide variety of purposes, including treatable diabetes, and many more. Google Glass is of course experimenting with hands free display of information while on the move.

In addition to these, energy harvesting techniques – something we explored in our last newsletter (see at this link) – are extending to body movements so that, just maybe in the future, you can power your smartphone or body sensors directly from body movements. That’s not going to help when you’re asleep of course – another opportunity for monitoring.

The strong message from this conference was how do you get people to actually wear this stuff?  If it looks clunky or geeky, only a few will go for that. So the message was – it’s got to be truly stylish, desirable and usable. One prediction was that sensing will become the new basic function for all premium sports wear within the next few years. Style is of course of fundamental importance for sportswear. For the general market to take off though, connected clothes generally must look stylish and desirable while also being easy to use. So look out for connected jewelry – multipurpose necklaces and wedding rings perhaps.

Technology vendors and clothes manufacturers must learn to work together. Is that going to happen?

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