Wearable tech is moving beyond fitness trackers, smartwatches and smart glasses.
That’s according to a new report from market research firm Tractica. Despite what some have perceived as slow adoption or doubt among the average consumer, the researchers found the market for smart apparel and body sensors is developing rapidly.
Consumers can expect to see more products that incorporate some type of body sensor in the coming years. According to the report, health care and sports are two key industries that stand to take advantage of the technology.
Tractica’s expanded the scope of the report from last year to include smart footwear, wearable patches, movement sensors and wrist devices within body sensors — a signal of how broad the wearables movement has become.
“Unlike fitness trackers, smartwatches or smart glasses, which have fairly well-defined form factors and use cases,” said research director Aditya Kaul, “smart clothing and body sensors are seeing a greater degree of experimentation and innovation. The applications for these devices span a range of markets including high fashion, medical devices, professional apparel, professional sports, mental wellness and baby monitors.”
Overall, Tractica forecast that cumulative worldwide shipments of smart clothing and body sensors will total 190 million units between 2015 and 2021, with annual shipments reaching 92.7 million devices by the end of that period.
Researchers highlighted recent iterations that take smart clothing beyond sports and fitness, and predicted that soon high-street clothing brands will introduce products that incorporate smart clothing features.
It also highlighted Google’s Project Jacquard project with Levi’s. Project Jacquard uses conductive yarns to weave touch and gesture interactivity into textile using standard industrial looms and has button-like modules to provide connectivity.
“Project Jacquard,” the report said, “is also an attempt at finding alternate user interfaces for smartphones, with clothes becoming a natural and effective medium. All of these advances will ensure smart clothing becomes more comfortable to wear, utilitarian, and easier to manufacture.”
Despite increasing research and development in the expanding wearables arena, the researchers acknowledged there were continuing challenges to widespread adoption.
For one, the types of metrics that wearables have traditionally provided, including heart rate variability or muscle oxygen saturation, are not necessarily sought after by the average consumer. It is also challenging for the textile and electronics industries to work together on high-volume manufacturing.
For smart clothing to truly expand beyond sports or high-end fashion experiments, the industry requires a device that makes smart clothing cool, desirable and affordable, the researchers said.
“This would involve popular clothing brands like Gap, Zara or H&M introducing a smart clothing line with a smartphone or connected element,” the researchers said. “Only fashion brands with that level of brand and scale can handle the manufacturing challenges and create awareness within the general consumer base.”