Another year has come and gone and while your determination to lose weight, sleep more, and spend less might wane by the time we hit February (no judgment, we’re all in the same boat here 🤷), the rise of smart fabrics and wearables shows no such signs of stopping.
Smart clothing as a whole has been in its infancy for a while now, but 2019 just might see it sprout into the industry equivalent of an awkward teen—still dealing with some growing pains but finally starting to come into its own. The market for smart textiles is projected to hit a whopping $1.8 billion by 2021, so this year should bring about some exciting first steps in that direction.
We’re no psychics, of course, but we thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the most buzzworthy smart clothing trends set to make waves in the market this year. So, without further ado, let’s get to forecasting!
Trend #1: Smart clothing for athletes and fitness fanatics
Athletics has been one of the most prominent areas of development for smart fabrics and wearables so far (think Fitbit, the Apple Watch, Moov, and our own smart SKIIN underwear) as fitness buffs are an ideal market for smart devices that track things like heart rate and breathing patterns.
The focus on fitness wearables will likely shift slightly this year as more emphasis is placed on comfort, unobtrusive design, and biometric accuracy—the wristbands that currently dominate the scene will be challenged by a slew of fresh new products including biometric t-shirts and sports bras, intelligent running shoes, and compression sleeves.
The purpose of these smart garments will expand as well to move beyond simply tracking data and into the realm of coaching and exercise guidance. We can see early evidence of this shift in products like the Nadi X smart yoga pants, leggings that use integrated sensors and haptic feedback to help you correct and improve your posture during yoga sessions.
Trend #2: Biometric tracking integrated with other smart devices
Picture a sci-fi movie protagonist tucking themselves into their sleek space-pod bed, the lights dimming automatically and the thermostat dropping to an optimal bedtime chill as our protagonist starts to doze off. Maybe a futuristic-looking coffee machine hums quietly to life early the next morning when it detects brainwave activity, the window coverings slowly receding to let natural light in at the perfect moment to wake up.
It may sound like fiction to you now, but this is where we’re headed. With smart fabrics able to monitor things like body temperature, heartbeat, brainwaves, and movement, integration with your other smart devices (thermostats, light bulbs, speakers, appliances, etc.) is the next step.
Google’s Jacquard jacket, which connects to your smartphone and allows you to do things like skip songs and listen to incoming messages by swiping or tapping on the cuff, is just the beginning—we predict that 2019 will see some cool IoT-integrated tech start to emerge from the realm of science fiction and into the real world.
Trend #3: Fashion and function in one
In the past, smart clothing has often been applauded more for its innovation than its appearance (bulky batteries, visible wiring, and a function-over-fashion approach to design are all to blame), but 2019 should see some exploratory aesthetic strides being made.
Expect to see fabrics that can change colour or glow without the use of LEDs being used in some interesting ways (anyone interested in a shirt that’s linked to your Tinder profile and “subtly glows when you’re near someone you’ve ‘swiped right’ on?”), buttons being integrated with simple tech like GPS, and accessories getting a tech makeover.
Cutting-edge clothing tech will also be used to help us dress better—the ZOZOSUIT, a specially-made, form-fitting garment that lets you capture an exact 3D image of your body and use those measurements to order custom clothing, is an excellent example.
Trend #4: Medically-minded smart fabrics
The medical field is one that holds enormous potential for revolutionary smart textiles and garments. Though the use of smart fabrics in hospitals and care facilities is currently limited, healthcare providers and medical device manufacturers are watching the development of this tech with sharp interest. According to Peter Brown of Mouser Electronics, “smart clothing holds such promise in healthcare it is being seen as a major disruptive force in the industry in the next five years.”
Some of the most promising forays into care-related smart textiles include sleeves or clothing that can remotely monitor at-risk patients’ health and relay that info to their physicians—this allows for unobtrusive long-term monitoring without disrupting a person’s day-to-day life or requiring them to move out of their home and into a care facility. Bed sheets and mattresses with pressure sensors to detect movement will help prevent painful bed sores in hospitalized patients, while specially-made light therapy blankets will allow parents to hold newborn infants with jaundice who would otherwise have to be placed under a special lamp.
Bioimpedance vests that track water accumulation in the lungs (which can indicate potential problems with the heart), smart heating wraps for injuries, belly bands that monitor fetal heart rate, and stockings that measure leg volume in patients with edema are all in development as well. The future of smart fabrics in healthcare is looking bright!