It started with devices in your home: smart vacuums, thermostats, televisions, and light bulbs that helped automate some of the simpler things in your home. Too tired to clean? Let your smart vacuum do all the work. Forgot to turn off the smart light in your kitchen? Use a voice command to turn it off. The point of smart devices has always been to make our lives just a little bit easier in a variety of ways.
One of the newest innovations with smart technology has been with things we can wear on the go. We’ve all seen the smart watches that allow you to monitor your steps or even type brief replies to text messages you receive. But a smart watch is just the tip of the iceberg for the current world of smart technology. All of these smart devices are tied to a concept called…
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The internet of things is a term used to describe any physical object that utilizes technology to connect to the internet. Sensors or software of some sort is added to practically any object, turning your clothing, appliances, vehicles, or even your doorbell into a “mini-computer”.
Essentially, as long as a device has an on/off switch or button of some sort, it can become a smart device. For example, connecting a FIRE stick to an old HDTV converts the TV into a smart device, or adding thousands of sensors to a jet engine to determine whether the jet is safe enough for another flight.
Today, we can make microscopic sensors that are difficult to detect, so virtually anything can be given a level of digital intelligence, “enabling [it] to communicate real-time data without involving a human being“. Items once exclusively physical are merged with digital technology, changing the ‘fabric’ of the world as we know it.
With microscopic sensors, it’s not difficult to imagine smart clothing that is still surprisingly comfortable. The real question is how it would work.
Smartphone applications, primarily: smart fabrics can “communicate with smartphones to process biometric information such as heart rate, temperature, breathing, stress, movement, acceleration, or even hormone levels“. This also illustrates the primary purpose of making clothing smart in the first place – health monitoring.
That said, there are other reasons for installing sensors or software into your clothing. For example, imagine forgetting your jacket while out dancing. If you went to four or five different bars that night, you might not know where it could be. Likewise, someone could have stolen it, meaning you wouldn’t find it at these bars anyway! With several sensors, you can literally track where your jacket currently is by using an app on your phone.
There are numerous other practical applications for smart clothing including fashion (giving you ideas for matching outfits), preventing theft, detecting when it’s time to replace worn-out clothing, and even advising you when to apply sunscreen. Smart clothing also has the potential to adjust the temperature automatically when you’re too hot/cold or even charge devices like your smartphone!
Check out the video below for some examples of smart clothing.
One other cool feature with smart clothing is the potential to save lives. Whether you’re a parent locating a missing child or a soldier trying to “detect the existence and concentration of poisonous gases in the atmosphere“, smart clothing and apparel can prevent the loss of life.
In the coming years, we’ll start to see more of this technology employed throughout our homes: “63 million American homes will qualify as “smart” by 2022, with everything from Internet-connected light bulbs to cameras that let us spy on our pets from the office“. Many of us probably already do have “smart” homes thanks to devices such as smart speakers (with AI assistants like Alexa and Siri) and smart TVs. It’s only a matter of time before we start adding smart clothing to our wardrobes.
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