The smart clothing industry is really in it’s infancy. In fact some clothing manufacturers are using the work “smart” the way green is used to sell products these days. What does smart clothing even mean?
With the advent of artificial intelligence science you have to ask yourself if it is now a requirement before something is considered “smart”, maybe it needs to have some level of AI on-board. Companies like Nividia are now making AI processors that use deep learning to learn almost anything. So given this definition what would smart clothing be capable of that regular clothing is not?
As with most things that become smart using AI tech, the first step is the addition of sensors. Take the auto industry and the steps taken to move to autonomous vehicles. Step one, they moved from combustion engines to all electric drive trains which have zero gears and few moving parts. Electric motors and drives are so much easier to adapt to computer control than their mechanical counterparts.
Steering linkages became electric sensors that sent signals to the controlling computer with commands to turn the wheels. Brakes became energy collectors that adsorbed and stores the braking energy as electric energy. eliminating the need for replaceable brake pads. With all these mechanical devices replaced by electric versions all that was needed was additional sensors for proximity and object recognition and to connect all this to a very smart artificial intelligence controller.
So let’s go back to the concept of smart clothing. What needs to change to be able to adapt AI to your typical coat or pair of pants?
Good question right? The picture and video we included is from one new smart clothing company named Hallem which recently was trying to find crowd funding.
The Smart Clothing 2.0 project led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd creates business opportunities for Finnish smart clothing and services. Research institutes and companies are working together to develop completely new products for the international markets.
For the past ten years, major business opportunities have been predicted to open up for smart clothing. Technology can be integrated in textiles and clothing to enable simultaneous and real-time monitoring of multiple factors, functional smart adjustments, and the development of a wide range of service concepts for different consumer segments. The development of sensor and data communications technology in particular will enable significant international breakthroughs.
Smart Clothing 2.0 will identify distinct end user needs and the latest technological potential. This will help to develop new product and service concepts, working in close collaboration with the business participants. Functionality of the project’s concepts will be tested by VTT and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, while the Emergency Services College will provide their expert opinions on both smart clothing and several service concepts, for example in matters related to accident call outs.
Project Leader and Principal Scientist, Pekka Tuomaala of VTT commented:
We are organizing an ambitious collaboration network for smart clothing to commercialize Finnish expertise in the booming national and international markets. Ultimately, we will develop genuinely new smart clothing for diverse user groups, be it hikers, top athletes, firefighters, children of all ages, fitters working high on masts, personnel maintaining and installing lifts, or patients recovering in hospitals.
The project has five business participants, each developing smart clothes and services for their own company. Suunto’s project includes several service concepts for exercise and leisure activities. Inkron will produce printed electronics solutions for textiles. Savox is planning new functionalities, for example for the needs of fire and rescue services. Reima encourages children to move using smart clothing concepts. Wind Controller develops smart clothing solutions and services for the needs of wind turbine fitters and maintenance personnel working in many types of extreme conditions.
Specialist Jouko Salo from Tekes, the main funding agency for the project said:
In the Smart Clothing 2.0 project, national spearhead funding is used to support the deepening collaboration across the industry as a whole, and level the path for businesses accessing the international smart clothing markets, currently enjoying strong growth.