The last few years have seen a huge explosion in the number of wearable fitness devices that track everything from our activity levels to general health metrics. In recent times, these devices have begun to be embedded in our clothing.
For instance, sweat bands have been developed to monitor our dehydration levels based upon the sweat it collects as we exercise. LumoRun have developed a range of ‘smart clothing’ that monitor your fitness activity, with IBM also teaming up with Under Armor to do similar work.
More advanced technologies aim to measure more than just your activity. For instance, one project aims to detect your fatigue levels for you, whilst a smart compression sleeve does everything from sleep monitoring to ECG provision.
A New Wave of Sensors
A nice example of this current trend is a new wearable sensor that is designed to be sufficiently flexible and transparent that it can be printed directly into sports clothing, from where it can track our performance.
The sensors consist of special polymers that are capable of being printed onto fabric in any range of patterns. An electric field is then applied to the polymer to align them so that when pressure is applied to the garment, a current is generated. The sensors are then capable of detecting pressure and deformation, which allows them to gather a range of data about our motions, and even the changes in temperature.
The sensors will be initially tested in a test product, called the MONI shirt, with the eventual aim of retailing the product to help us track our health and fitness activities. Suffice to say, it still carries many of the challenges inherent in having sensors built into clothing, such as what happens should they need washing, or indeed when they get torn or broken in some way.
For me, these concerns mean the jury is still very much out on whether tracking technology will become integrated with our clothing, but it’s a trend that’s well worth watching.
Editor's addition: Here's a video of what Maria Toro-Troconis, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool, has to say about how IoT will impact health in the future: