I WEAR IT ON MY SLEEVE

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Do you ever wonder what the next generation of clothing will look like? Did some of you join the Apple watch, Google glasses, or Fitbit trends? How many of you have a Fitness tracker or App you use? You may find it interesting to know that the future of wearables will do much more than track your vitals. The fashion retailers and startups are developing fabric processors, shape shifting yarns and other technologies to make clothing “smart.” In fact, next generation clothing promises to do virtually everything our smart phones do. And, taking it one step farther, smart clothing will be so discreet, we may not even know it is there. Someday soon, we will literally be wearing our hearts on our sleeve!

Ask the average person what a wearable technology is and they’ll say a fitness tracker. They’ll describe it as a hard plastic bracelet, watch or clip-on gadget that logs things like heart rate and level of activity. While these early wearables have been hugely popular and a big leap forward, they have also had an extraordinarily high abandonment rate. Some 50 percent of users stop wearing them within six months.

A world where clothing tracks your movements and collects an enormous amount of other sensor-driven data raises obvious privacy concerns, the full implications of which are yet to be addressed. But wearables represent an opportunity for more personal security as well. By using every person’s unique heartbeat as identification, for example, wearables could eliminate the danger of lost or stolen keys and credit cards and maybe even people! Startups such as ROAR and Cuff are designing wearable jewelry that will be able to send out alerts to friends and family in case of emergency.

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Rather than adding a separate component to clothing, digital capability would be sewn in. Next-generation clothing promises to do virtually everything smart phones can do—navigation, communication, entertainment—and some things they can’t, such as close medical monitoring. And they’re already a booming business. Global market analysts Markets and Research projects the sector to grow from $22.7 billion today to $173 billion by 2020.

Fashion and buying tastes is a language of emotion, personal expression and aesthetic. The fabric gurus are keeping that in mind when designing smart clothing. They imagine using LED technology to make clothes that are visually interactive—and fibers that change colors and patterns so that you can refresh your wardrobe without ever buying a new one.

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Whatever direction the technology takes, the ambition for wearable fashion now is to make it…well, fashionable. That’s the reason Christina Mercando, of Ringly—her wearable-jewelry company, decided to put ring design before technology. “It was obvious to me that I would have to make it something that I’d want to wear even if there was no technology inside,” she says.

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Believe it or not, the goal of wearable technology is to give the wearer less to do and fewer things to worry about. “My whole mission is to let people use their phones less,” Mercando says. “Eventually, we want to eliminate keys and credit cards and all these little things you have to worry about in your life.” Along with her colleagues in the smart-clothing business, Mercando is trying to build a world we can only imagine now, one in which connected clothing can actually help us disconnect; a place where we can feel confident leaving home with nothing but the clothes on our backs.

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Hmmm…I will have to ponder on this some more. What are your thoughts?

Living the Dream,

Lynne

 

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