Trend: Wearables Disappear as Smart Clothing Dominates

Category under: Blog, Sports & Fitness, Trends, Videos

Are wearables about to disappear, and become a ‘technology from the olden days?’ They might as smart clothing comes to dominate our world of movement and fitness tracking in the coming time.

Over the years, I’ve had regular discussions with my personal trainer about the exercise routines she has been trying to get me to do. After all, being intensely curious, I want to understand the purpose of each particular exercise and what muscle group they are supposed to be ‘firing’ (her terminology). Today, we’re on the edge of an era in which smart clothing will become common, and this will help us to achieve this goal.

And so rather than carrying around a variety of ‘wearables’ such as a FitBit, you’ll simply put your clothes on, and throughout the day, your muscle activity, breathing rate, heart activity zones and other information will be automatically tracked. Wearables will disappear — and the way you conduct your exercise routines will be forever transformed.

I recently spoke about this trend during a recent keynote for the national meeting of the YMCA of Canada: here’s a clip from the Q&A portion of the talk:

The estimates for the growth of the smart clothing sector indicate that it is certainly a “next big thing:” Tractica, a research firm, predicts total shipments of smart clothing growing from 968,000 units in 2015 to 24.8 million by 2021; another firm, Research & Markets, expects growth from 140,000 units in 2013 to 10.2 million by 2020.

Smart clothing will provide several distinct capabilities, although any particular smart clothing item might contain one or more of these capabilities:

  • spatial awareness capabilities: you or your personal trainer will be able to determine if you are using the right muscle group for the exercise at hand. The clothing will allow for monitoring of your body position from a 3D perspective on a connected mobile or table device.
  • performance tracking metrics:  such as calorie burn or oxygen consumption, useful to understand if you are performing at the right intensity for the exercise at hand
  • cadence  measurement, such as when you are jogging or cycling
  • clothing that lights up and changes in relation to music or movement; this will be the new fashion and fad accessory!

There will be many other capabilities as well.

We’re already seeing some fascinating developments in the smart clothing space:

  • L’areal  has developed a UV tracking sticker that could help prevent skin cancer. Designed” in partnership PCH, with sensors from MC10, My UV Patch is a soft wearable heart sticker, packed with ultraviolet- tracking sensors
  • Athos sells “smart performance apparel that monitors your biosignals and distills them into meaningful insights” — in other words, if will tell you if you are doing your squats or other routines properly; it will measure muscle activity and effort,and help you interpret the data.
  • Hexoskin sells smart clothing that monitors calories burned, energy expended, breathing patterns and other information.

Right now available smart clothing products such as that from Hexoskin are premium priced, and are definitely not ‘mainstream’ when it comes to design. (A Hexoskin shirt can cost about $450!).

But as with any new technology, the price will steadily decrease, the technology and sophistication of the clothing will accelerate, and new markets and opportunities will be born!

Will the era of smart clothing result in the disappearance of personal trainers? Might we start using holographic trainers instead of real human beings? I put these questions to my trainer, and her response was:

  • -personal trainers will not get replaced by technology
  •  people want instant gratification, generally speaking they will not take the time to learn and correctly perform these more complex exercises on their own
  • the feed back that wearable technology and smart clothing can give them is great for motivation and will promote adherence
  • humans are basically social creatures and nothing can replace the face-to-face coaching experience
  • Nor the power of the words “good job!” And a smile! 🙂

And I certainly agree with that!


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.