It is a short step from the World Wide Web to the World Wide Wear. From glasses to shoes, via rings, bracelets, sweaters and caps, manufacturers have decided to connect a wide range of clothes and accessories worn by users on a daily basis. While some are designed to be fun, others are practical and promise to improve users’ comfort and health.
Manufacturers are rushing to offer “wearables” since a number of recent studies highlighted their massive potential. Indeed, this is the segment of connected objects with the greatest short-term potential. The IDC research institute estimates that 19 million objects of this type will be sold in 2015. Here is a glimpse into the creativity already being demonstrated by manufacturers, to equip every part of the body with connectivity and new, evolved functions.
Google is behind the development of a connected contact lens, capable of measuring the wearer’s blood sugar levels. On the connected glasses market, numerous manufacturers have invested, including Optinvent with its ORA Android smartglasses. Finally, existing products such as Bluetooth earpieces are also adapting to the current trend. Jabra Pulse and Parrot Zik Sport, for instance, are capable of measuring a range of biometric data including the wearer’s pulse.
Numerous projects currently exist for connected t-shirts and sweaters. This segment is clearly behind compared with others, such as bracelets, however, and is only expected to take off from 2016, when new “e-textile” materials become available. This will allow clothes to change color according to the wearer’s emotions, measure heart rate and calories burnt, cool or heat certain parts of the body, release cream to moisturize dry skin, etc. A company called Citizen Sciences already offers a t-shirt capable of monitoring its wearer’s physical activity, particularly to manage strain and prevent any cardiovascular risk. Identical functions are offered by OMsignal biometric smart clothing. The T.Jacket, meanwhile, has a more frivolous function, providing a cuddle on demand. The cuddle can be triggered remotely, by a loved one for example, or via interactions on social networks. If that “wearable” is of dubious practical value, the connected pump from Cellnovo certainly is not. This promises to change diabetics’ lives by measuring their insulin levels and physical activity. An application even gives doctors access to their patients’ data.
The wrist is certainly one of the most popular parts of a user’s body in the field of “wearable” connected objects and watches and bracelets are the most mature segment. From Apple to Samsung, via Sony, Huawei, Microsoft and many more, a large number of high-tech manufacturers already offer products in this category. In the medium term, connected watches and bracelets are likely to merge, since the former include all the functionalities of the latter. High-end products from makers such as Jawbone and FitBit could survive, however. Connected watches, meanwhile, are already available in a wide range of formats, from models with a traditional appearance such as the Withings Activité range to real wrist computers, including the Samsung Gear S and Android Wear watches. Other manufacturers such as Netatmo are taking a slightly different approach, with the June bracelet allowing wearers to measure their exposure to the sun. Logbat Firm meanwhile offers a connected ring allowing the wearer to control other objects, change TV station, etc., with a movement of the finger. What the public is really waiting for, though, is the launch in April of the Apple Watch, a connected watch which will act as an extension to the iPhone. This could eventually function independently, with the possibility of controlling your vehicle for example.
Back in 2012, well before connected objects became popular, Nike announced that it was working on sneakers with connectivity, called the Nike+ training system. These allow users to emulate the training carried out by champions such as Nadal. More recently, French company Digisole created a buzz by launching a revolutionary insole with Bluetooth connectivity. This slides into a standard pair of shoes and allows the wearer to set a miniature thermostat to regulate heat at the desired temperature. It can also track information such as distance traveled and calories burnt.