Did you know that T-shirts already exist that can record your heart rate and sports performance?
Even Google is actively working on textiles
Soon, you will not even need to recharge your phone at home, because the photovoltaic cells of your clothes will take care of it
Clothes capable of collecting information
Initially, there was a smartphone. Then the smartwatch. Today, we are witnessing the advent of smart clothing. Clothes equipped with the highest technologies, able not only to detect the factors and stimuli of the environment but also to collect information about you.
In the field of sports, in particular, new clothes can do almost everything: analyze your stride, record your performance etc. Connected jerseys even tell you how many calories you burn.
Smart clothing has already been adopted by well-known luxury brands such as Ralph Lauren, whose PoloTech jersey records the pulse and rhythm of breathing through silver fibers embedded in the fabric. A gyroscope and an accelerometer detect movement and direction, while sensors discreetly sewed into a band across the chest collect biological and physiological information. The data is transmitted to a mobile phone via an application, which allows the user to adjust his training accordingly.
The smart jersey made its appearance on the occasion of the U.S. Open 2014, where he was worn by the ball collectors. We can easily imagine the peaks of heart rate recorded when these little budding players put a ball to their favorite idol!
Go well beyond simply tracking data
The decisive step was to integrate high technologies into the fabric structure to free the user from the burden of external electronic devices. It is therefore logical that the new generation of smart clothing will be the fruit of the collaboration between the world of digital and that of fashion.
In fact, Google recently partnered with Levi’s, an iconic denim brand, to create interactive apparel for the Jacquard Project. This new technology involves weaving tiny wires into the fibers to create a connected and interactive fabric that’s as comfortable as our everyday clothes. Tiny, button-sized circuitry detects the user’s every move and transmits information to a wireless device, typically a smartphone.
Google and H & M aim to create a customizable dress with “data”
The goal is to develop an Android application that can detect where the user is going, the weather at home and whether he is dressed formally or casual. On the basis of this information, Ivyrevel will design a personalized “data dress”, available for purchase.
On the other hand, smart textiles may soon be influencing our emotions. Thus, psychotextiles, made from an electrochemical component, may one day have the power to affect your mood and help you maintain a positive attitude in the office!
When clothes turn into solar panels
To say that nanotechnology has been at the origin of major scientific breakthroughs is almost commonplace. According to the journal ACS Nano, researchers have already developed the first fibers that can be woven like textiles, and thus be cut in any form. These fibers behave like photovoltaic cells: they are able to store solar energy and convert it into electricity.
This spectacular breakthrough in nanotechnology brings a new source of electricity, clean and renewable. Thanks to her, battery failures during travel may be a thing of the past.
Solar research is not limited to nanotechnology, far from it: by combining copper with zinc, titanium, and manganese, researchers have succeeded in creating fibers capable of collecting and storing electricity solar. The fashion world has embraced the new concept with enthusiasm. In 2013, the Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen created the first solar dress capable of generating enough electricity to power a mobile phone.
In September 2016, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta went one step further by developing a new generation of tissue that can store energy not only from the sun but also from movement. Such a miracle has been made possible by a mixture of ultra-lightweight polymer fibers and triboelectric nanogenerators that generate energy from motion.
The renewable energy thus created is likely to be combined with cotton, wool or any other kind of fabric, thus forming an intelligent fabric that is both useful and comfortable. Imagine how much energy is stored after a day spent playing with your kids in bright sunshine!
Many challenges to take up
Unlike other consumer goods sectors such as toys and household appliances, the textile industry is relatively unregulated. According to SGT, a provider of textile quality management solutions, the smart apparel industry will have to overcome three major challenges:
The importance of safety is dictated by the fact that most of these tissues will be in direct contact with the skin.
In this context, the laboratories involved in the research and chemical analysis of these new fibers will play a vital role in the development of a quality testing procedure prior to the commercialization of smart clothing. Their research will also influence the future regulation of these products.
In addition, quality tests will have a central role in ensuring the functionality and durability of these garments. For example, tests will be essential to determine if these high-tech fibers deteriorate with washing. Will metal fibers resist repeated washing with hot water? Will wear cause a drop in product performance? These questions are currently unanswered.
As the industry develops, R & D teams will have the onerous task of exploring new technologies, sharing their knowledge and contributing to the development of regulatory standards to ensure a high level of reliability for both manufacturers and manufacturers.