7 reasons why wearables will revolutionize textiles and clothing
Up to now, clothing has only had two functions: It should protect our body from cold, heat or the eyes of others and it should look good to symbolize our status. Wearables, like clothing on portable computers, will significantly expand this spectrum.
One might think that Coco Chanel foresaw the future of high-tech clothing when she said: "Fashion is not something that exists only in clothing. Fashion is in the air, on the street, fashion has something to do with ideas, with the way we live, with what happens."
It is especially the ideas that drive research and development, that connect technologies that were previously unconnected. This also and especially applies to the textile and clothing industry. Wearable Technology is the best example of this: a fusion of classic textile with modern electronics.
The wristwatch went through a similar path of innovation. This has developed from pure functionality to fashion accessories and smart watches, which combine many different functions. And similar to watches, this development is also taking place in textiles via the market for sports and health goods. From functional shirts to smart shirts. From special interest to a product suitable for mass production.
We have listed for you what our clothing can do in the future and how it will change our lives in the long term:
We will use it to control our electronic devices
Call home with a short wipe over the sleeve? Just tapped the collar and the light is gently dimmed? Run over your trousers and the TV turns on? No science fiction, the people in the Google Lab ATAP are working on it: In Project Jacquard a kind of trackpad is woven from conductive textile fibres, which is to be used as an input device. The body as remote control. In cooperation with Levi's, the first corresponding garments should soon be marketable.
We will generate electricity
Energy harvesting is what the Fraunhofer Institute in Munich calls the generation of the smallest amounts of energy from body heat or movement. So we will be able to use our headlamp when jogging, and the MP3 player when cycling. Wearable Solar doesn't even need this: small solar panels in the clothing, and in two hours in the sun the mobile phone is fully charged.
Our vital functions are measured...
Whether in sports or medicine, information about our body functions such as blood pressure, pulse or heart rate is essential. And possibly in real time. A T-shirt that measures these values and sends them to our mobile phone via Bluetooth is for example the FitnessSHIRT, or the RespiShirt that monitors breathing.
... or even save lives
A simple fall in one's own home can be life-threatening for an elderly person. Clothing that can register a fall and automatically send an emergency call is a great help.
We can watch our muscles at work
The Radiative Shirt project is a very good example of how a great idea can be so badly implemented that it ultimately fails. A shirt that measures the body temperature and changes color depending on it. The athlete can see which muscles are used more and which are used less during training. A real hit, if it weren't for the delivery bottlenecks and errors in management.
Our muscles are stimulated
No doubt, a large part of the wearables currently falls into the health-style sector, as the intersection of the sports and health sectors is called. And electromyostimulation (EMS) is a good example. Originally used for rehabilitation patients to prevent muscular atrophy, today it has arrived in the daily fitness centre via competitive sports. The principle: The muscles are stimulated with stimulation current from the outside, contract - and grow.
A young German start-up company developed a suit that makes use of this method: the Antelope suit. EMS fans who previously had to train in specialized fitness centers can now do this wherever they want.
Wearables become fashionable
Functionality alone is not enough, of course; it must also be creative and beautiful. CuteCircuit, for example, has made a name for itself in this field. High tech fashion is their business. And when Nicole Scherzinger wears the world's first Twitter dress, it makes history - at least that's how the designers see it.
Keyword beauty: This year, the Japanese company Teijin received approval for textiles that act like a skin cream when worn. The idea: special polyester fibres are upgraded with malic acid to care for the skin, especially during sports. Malic acid is used, for example, for peeling the skin. Teijin also promises to regulate the acidity of the skin with its textiles.
The Austrian company Getzner is also researching and working in the direction of expanding the functionality of textiles, albeit not with electronic means: one of Getzner's innovations is to give fabrics a new sensory component by means of microcapsules that contain selected scents; movements release the molecules enclosed in the microcapsules. The result: a fabric for all senses, attractive, breathable and comfortable to wear.
We're gonna have fun
Absurd ideas? No problem, you can still make money with it. A T-shirt to play guitar with? Or drum pants - trousers with which you can drum? Or would you rather have it a little more discreet with clothes that become transparent when touched intimately?
Conclusion: Wearables and your future
As diverse as the ideas and innovations at Wearables are, most of them are still far from being ready for series production. But one thing is clear: hardly any other topic stimulates the imagination as much as wearables, the portable technology, promises so many innovations in the coming years.
Born in the Salzkammergut. After working for Shell and Porsche, he concentrated on innovation management as a study assistant at the Innovation Department of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. In 2003 he founded LEAD Innovation and manages the company as Managing Partner. Lectures at MIT, in front of companies like Google or NASA.