Smart Clothing for Higher Performance & Better Health
Smart clothes are a new category of apparel, enhanced with innovative technology designed to provide extra functionality, beyond traditional use.
For that, smart clothes are also referred to as high-tech clothing, intelligent clothes, smart wear, or monitor clothing.
Most smart clothes are made from advanced textiles – also known as electronic textiles, smart textiles, e-textiles.
These smart fabrics are interwoven circuitry, sensors, and additional hardware embedded for further smart functionality.
Smart clothes can connect to apps on smartphones or software on secondary devices such as laptops and PCs via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Via the smart sensors, these smart garments collect activity metrics and key biometrics such as distance traveled, altitude, temperature, heart rate, blood oxygenation, and more.
The data is sent to AI-powered apps on your smartphone, to help with your health and performance.
However, wireless connectivity isn’t necessary to classify a garment as a type of smart clothing.
Top 15 Intelligent Clothing Right Now
After first popping to the surface in 2015, the ‘e-textile and smart clothing’ segment is still to reach mainstream adoption.
Yet, we’re seeing the number of companies using innovative technology to create connected garments rising fast.
Past strapping gadgets to wrists, ears, and feet, the 2nd generation of smart clothing can track heart rates, monitor emotions, unlock doors, and even order coffee on your behalf.
All of that without grabbing your smartphone or tapping on your smartwatch screen.
Built-in haptic vibrations
If you’re a beginner in Yoga, certain body postures can be quite difficult.
How do you move your body? How long do you hold your position?
Without a good instructor, if you try by yourself, you’ll soon find yourself in trouble.
However, Sydney-based startup Wearable X’s Nadi X pants solve all of that.
Nadi X yoga pants can sense when your yoga pose needs refining.
Using haptic feedback, the smart pants send small vibrations to the body part you need to adjust.
The built-in haptic vibrations gently pulse at the hips, knees, and ankles to encourage you to move and/or hold positions.
The trousers sync up via Bluetooth to your phone and, through the companion app, give you additional feedback.
The Nadi X app offers instructions on how to optimize each pose, in addition to proper yoga flows which can be used to curate your own personal yoga class.
Nadi X yoga pants are available for men and women in a variety of sizes and are completely machine washable after removing the battery pack which attaches to the rear of your left knee.
It comes in four sizes – XS, S, M, L – and four styles – Midnight, Midnight with black, Black/White with mesh, and Navy/Gray with mesh.
Levi’s + Google Jacquard
Answer calls, play music, take photos!
Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket was the first piece of connected clothing launched from Google’s Project Jacquard platform.
By building touch and gesture-sensitive areas on the jacket sleeve, wearers are able to interact with a variety of services including music and map apps.
You can dismiss phone calls with a swipe or double-tap to get directions – all without reaching for your phone.
The smart denim jacket will smarten up your commute in more ways than you can imagine.
The Commuter x Jacquard fashion tech jacket connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
The jacket can screen phone calls, control music volume, and even notify you when your rideshare is nearby.
Interestingly enough, this jacket has been more recently adopted by lovers of streetwear fashion.
Measure heart rate, anaerobic data, & stress levels
Ambiotex’s smart shirt is built with serious athletes in mind, whether you’re a runner, cyclist, or live in the gym.
The compression-style fit means you need to be in pretty decent shape already to pull it off.
The integrated sensors, along with the clip-on box, record key data such as heart rate variability, anaerobic threshold, as well as fitness and stress levels.
Data can be viewed in real-time on the companion smartphone app.
There, you get insights into your biometric data and what it means for optimizing training and recovery.
Furthermore, via the app, you have access to individual training programs.
The heart rate accuracy seemed to measure up in our testing.
However, while it doesn’t break the mold for fitness-based smart garments, it does do a good job of pushing out the stats and putting those numbers to good use.
Accurate HRV monitoring
Despite a failed Kickstarter campaign, Komodo Technologies still found a way to launch its compression sleeve.
The smart clothing piece uses electrocardiogram (ECG) technology to monitor heart rate activity.
Aside from offering accurate heart rate data, the sleeve monitors sleep and workout intensity.
The main smart module has sensors onboard to monitor body temperature, air quality, and UV rays.
While it sounds like a perfect fit for fitness lovers, the startup behind AIO seeks to measure stress levels and even detect heart inflammation and coronary heart disease as well.
Absorbs body heat for faster recovery
Athlete Recovery is Under Armour’s clothing line that absorbs heat from the body and then reflects it back onto the wearer’s skin.
The absorbed heat is converted into far-infrared light and more recent studies show how important infrared light is for the human body.
Overall, if you’re a top-level athlete looking to enhance your muscle recovery and relaxation, this is a must-have smart clothing piece.
Monitor babies’ oxygen level & heart rate
The latest generation of Owlet Smart Sock has all the features you know and love.
It uses the same pulse oximetry technology used in hospitals to monitor the little one’s heart rate, making sure his or her sleeping and breathing haven’t been interrupted.
It also comes in three sizes, charges via a base station, and syncs to your iPhone or Android phone to deliver data in real-time.
New additions include improved Bluetooth range – up to 100 feet – and more accurate sensors.
It’ll also work with Owlet’s new Connected Care platform, which helps to identify potential health issues, sleep irregularities, RSV, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, chronic lung disorders, and heart defects.
Monitor UV exposure
This French fashion technology company has been busy creating connected clothing, including jeans, dresses, and bikinis.
The Neviano UV Protect swimsuit collection is equipped with a removable medallion-style waterproof sensor that stops you from staying too long in the sun.
Once you’ve entered your skin type in the companion iOS or Android smartphone app, it’ll monitor the temperature throughout the day.
Then, it sends out warnings when it is time to apply more sunscreen or get into the shade.
Designed and made in France, Neviano’s swimsuits are stylish and integrated with UV sensors.
The sensor is about half the size of an adult’s thumb, waterproof, and connects to the wearer’s iOS or Android device.
Overall, this is a smart swimming suit that sends you reminders to apply more sunscreen when the UV levels are high.
Built-in ECG, respiratory & activity sensors
This rare piece of smart clothing is another excellent example of technology in fashion.
The Montreal-based company has developed a connected shirt laced with smart sensors.
Along with a heart rate, breathing and, movement monitoring sensor, the shirt is fitted with Bluetooth so you can pair it with your favorite fitness apps such as MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and Strava.
Moreover, via Bluetooth, you can connect to a whole host of third-party accessories.
Data is captured in real-time and is sent to the companion app, providing insights on a range of sporty metrics.
The data includes intensity and recovery, calories burned, fatigue level, and sleep quality.
Hexoskin’s activewear is able to monitor your heart rate, calories, volume and breathing rate, steps, cadence, and even sleep, thanks to its complex construct.
The brand’s smart clothes are made from high-quality Italian fabrics and the small device is hidden into a secret pouch on the shirt.
Available in short and long-sleeved versions for men and women, the smart device behind the Hexoskin can connect via Bluetooth to all types of Android and iOS smartphones.
Measure steps, speed, altitude, & distances
According to the company, Sensoria socks are infused with 100% proprietary textile sensors, whatever that means.
The socks are paired with a smart Bluetooth detachable anklet that delivers superior accuracy.
The measured data includes step counting, speed, calories consumed, altitude, and distance tracking.
The device can also track cadence and foot landing techniques as you walk or run.
However, the main benefit of Sensoria socks lies in their capacity to identify injury-prone running styles.
Heel striking, ball striking, angle cutting and running, are leveraged thanks to the smartphone app that can further create programs to coach the runner.
The Sensoria app dashboard is designed to help the wearer achieve goals, improve performance, and reduce the risk of creating bad tendencies.
Sensoria fitness socks use advanced textile sensors built into each sock.
The sensors communicate with a connected anklet device designed to deliver precise data on how your foot lands while walking or running.
The connected app provides tips to improve your walking and running technique, and it tracks your steps, speed, altitude, and distance traveled.
A new monthly subscription also unlocks a new dashboard and new training plans.
The socks feature three textile pressure sensors, which measure the pressure placed on the foot during running.
The new Sensoria Core module, which does the brain work, is now also smaller and lighter to wear than the original.
Measures biometrics & performance
Athos is a patented system that enables the world’s first smart clothing to measure how hard your muscles are working using the science of EMG (Electromyography).
This is combined with powerful AI and a mobile app that gives you insights to truly understand how your body performs.
The system has helped athletes at all levels train better and smarter, whatever your goal.
At the forefront of wearable technology designed for smart clothing, Athos shirt and shorts are sensor-filled garments that measure your biometrics and performance, as you workout.
The whole AI processing is done by Athos Core, a little capsule that snaps into your Athos apparel to collect and analyze data from the garment’s sensors.
Then, it delivers the data to your mobile app via Bluetooth on your smartphone and lasts up to 10 hours on a single charge.
Athos Core can monitor your muscle activity, heart rate, and even breathing rate so it is able to provide real-time biometric tracking in real-time.
‘Core’ is the name chosen by Athos designers, according to its style as a small capsule glued to the garments.
The 10g “Core” device is inconspicuous as it can hide into your pocket, or be placed on the top of your t-shirt.
Athos Core technology has been reserved for professional athletes until now, making these fitness garments excellent equipment choices for bodybuilders and people interested in active training sports.
Prevent diabetics’ foot injuries
Not every bit of smart clothing is trying to help you get fitter.
And this is exactly the case with the Siren socks, which are designed to detect and prevent diabetics’ foot injuries.
Siren’s smart socks, also referred to as Siren’s Diabetic Socks and Foot Monitoring System, use small sensors placed throughout the socks’ fabric to measure the foot’s temperature at six different points.
The socks’ microsensors are woven into the fabric to continuously monitor the temperature.
When the sensors detect a rise in heat, such as an inflammation occurring, an alert is sent to the user, like a smartphone notification or text message.
The idea is to catch injuries before it’s too late since inflammation can lead to foot ulcers.
However, with diabetics who suffer from nerve damage often experiencing numbness in the legs, these symptoms are ignored, often resulting in amputations.
Ministry of Supply
Intelligent Heated Jacket
Mercury is a sleek-looking urban jacket from the Ministry of Supply.
The garment is 90% recycled, voice-controllable through assistants like Amazon Alexa, wind/waterproof, and best of all, uses machine learning to heat to your optimal temperature.
Launched on Kickstarter, the company raised more than $600,000 to make this product a reality.
There are other battery-powered thermal jackets on the market, but what’s really innovative about Mercury is the machine-learning element.
It reads the temperature, motion data, and user preferences to provide the right amount of heat across a wide range of environments.
Put more simply, it knows what you want before you even tell it.
Now, this is not a piece of smart clothing but it is worth mentioning here a good reason; the next level of smart clothing, the digital garments.
Digital garments are in fact virtual layers superimposed on one’s body via AR glasses like these ones presented here.
Snapchat’s latest generation of smart glasses boasts improved image quality for videos and photos.
It also comes with dual microphones for better sound recording, and it has faster transfer times.
The Spectacles 2 have more color variations than the original model.
Also, the design of the newer Veronica and Nico models was better received by the consumers.
Although the AR cameras are still noticeable on the glasses, the new designs are a bit more subtle.
By far the best way to broadcast to the world your smart clothing in form of snaps.
Clinical vital signs monitor
Founded by Sona Shah and Teresa Cauvel, two Columbia University biomedical engineering graduates, this smart baby hat is truly a life-saving piece of smart clothing.
Neopenda’s hat is designed for newborn babies and measures temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen saturation.
Up to 24 baby hats can be wirelessly synced, via Bluetooth, to one tablet which will run custom software.
The idea is that doctors and nurses can check up on the vital signs of the whole room at a glance and get alerts if any changes in temperature or heart rate, say, are cause for concern.
This San Francisco Bay Area startup breaths new life into SRI’s SuperFlex suit technology.
Seismic, located in Menlo Park, California is taking on the commercial wearables market with its modern Powered Clothing design.
The technology behind the Seismic’s Powered Clothing is based on the DARPA-funded Warrior Web Project.
SRI International developed the SuperFlex suit, an ingenious low-power exosuit that saves space and reduces heat.
The company is about to launch a wide range of battery-powered exosuits, designed to help people with reduced mobility, athlete recovery, and performance increase.
6 Smart Clothing Examples
Many companies have begun integrating technology in fashion making.
As a result, smart clothes are popping up in almost every fashion category.
Examples of the many different types of high tech clothing include:
- Smart shoes: Pizza Hut has experimented with limited-edition tech sneakers that can order pizza.
- Smart work clothes: Samsung has made a smart business suit that can exchange digital business cards, unlock phones, and interact with other devices.
- Smart sleepwear: Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery Sleepwear absorbs heat from the wearer’s body while releasing infrared light to increase sleep quality and improve muscle recovery.
- Smart activewear: Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech t-shirts connect to a smartphone app to record fitness activity and recommend new workouts to the wearer.
- Smart casual wear: Tommy Hilfiger embedded tech into garments to track product usage and reward customers for time spent wearing them.
- Smart socks: Sensoria’s Smart Socks can detect which part of your feet is receiving the most pressure during your run and send the data to a smartphone app.
Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!
Now it’s your turn…
Which one of these smart clothing pieces is your favorite and why?
Are there any other great smart clothing products or brands you’ve tried and want to add to this list?
From all the smart clothing products you’ve ever tried, which one did you find the most useful and why?
Please leave your tips and comments below so other people can benefit from your expertise.
Growing up in western PEI, Bruce Knox blends his extensive public health, non-profit, and public sector background with a deep love for innovative technologies to bring people together in healthier communities and environments.