2015 was meant to be the breakthrough year for smart clothing. But it hasn't really panned out like that.
Early players like OMSignal have proved that there's still a lot to learn before you're walking into a JD Sports or a Nike Store to pick up a heart rate monitoring running vest.
Jabil, a tech company in St Petersburg, believes it has the answer to help one of the biggest growth areas in wearable technology to flourish. It has announced Peak+, a reference design for smart clothing for manufacturers to build sensors into t-shirts and sports bras, to record biometric data without sacrificing comfort.
Teaming up with experts in the field
Jabil's model to bring in experts in the field from the beginning could be vital here. That starts with the acquisition of Finnish-based outfit Clothing+, which has plenty of experience building textile-integrated electronics for Adidas, Garmin, Philips and Salomon.
The most famous Clothing+ project so far was helping to build the Adidas miCoach Elite system which a host of sides at the 2014 World Cup used, including eventual champions Germany.
Jabil has also convinced sports watch makers Suunto to build the wireless transmitter for Peak+ to send tracked data from the sensors woven into the clothing to a companion app.
Rounding out the partnerships is a collaboration with Firstbeat, a heart rate data analytics company you probably haven't heard of, but there's a good chance you've used a product that supports it. The Samsung Gear S, Garmin Forerunner 630 and Sony SmartBand 2 utilise FirstBeat data analytics. The very same real-time information on recovery time and the effects of a tough workout can be delivered to the user.
Challenges of smart clothing 1.0
So is this really all that different from other smart clothing we've already read about? Well, not entirely. The key here is that Jabil believes it can speed up the time it takes to make clothing ranges and get real products out. It aims to help companies struggling to get to grips with adding innovative tech like banded heart rate monitors to existing clothing lines.
But that's not all. Jabil is also looking further afield by not focusing on simply improving sporting performance. Big steps are being made in healthcare and fashion industries and this kind of reference design could be tweaked for monitoring health, wellbeing and lifestyle tracking.
With a bigger pool of brands making smart clothing, it'll address arguably one of its biggest problems and that's price. Donning a shirt that monitors your breathing costs big money right now but with these kinds of partnerships, early adopters should see prices drop in 2016.
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