Smart Clothes: Textiles combined with Electronics

Mobile patient monitoring, healthcare,  colour changing clothes or sportswear which measures pulse, analyses the sweat and evaluates how many calories are burned: Everything could be possible with smart clothes. The following five sources give an insight into the combination of smart textiles and wearable electronics.

“Intelligente Kleidung”

“Intelligente Kleidung” is the title of Arte’s television report from its TV series FUTUREMAG in 2014.

The television report deals with the medical aspects of smart clothes, especially in combination with sport activities and in the working field of firefighters. The report discusses to what extent smart clothes can support professional athletes but also everybody else who loves sports and being active. The way the sensors save the athletes‘ information during the activity and interpret the results are well explained.

Moreover, the television report shows the origins of smart clothes. It introduces the use of smart clothes in firefighting applications and shows exactly where the results are saved and how this can help the firefighters. In addition, being given the example of a sensor built-in sports shirt, the viewer gets an idea of the technology behind smart clothes.

The main issues of this television report are the two possible applications of smart clothes. Any other aspects around this topic are not mentioned, such as negative sides like electro smog. The report is recommended for those who are interested in smart clothes for sports and in a firefighter’s working life.

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“Wenn der Pullover Daten sammelt”

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The online article, written by Angela Gruber, in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung with the title “Wenn der Pullover Daten sammelt” is based on an interview with the German scientist Katharina Bredies who works at the Design Research Lab at  Berlin University of The Arts.

This article is a brief presentation of the key aspects that come along with the topic smart clothes. Katharina Bredies explaines why people do need clothes with electronic technique and she points out how the final product will look like and if this new technique is ready for the mass-market. She also presents her own developed emergency jacket with built-in sensors for elder people. Moreover, she comments on how to wash smart clothes correctly. The end of this article focuses on the legal conditions in Germany when it comes to the sensitive topic of data protection.

This article is a nice start to get a first insight into the new topic of smart clothes. It is easy to read and shows a good overview of the topic. However, the article always stays on the surface of the topic and does not deal with deeper aspects such as the medical side of it. In order to get a first access to the topic of smart clothes, it can be recommended though. For everyone who wants to go beyond a first impression of the issue, this article is too superficial.

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“Smart Clothes – Textilien mit Elektronik. Was bietet der Markt der Intelligenten Bekleidung?”

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The book with the title „Smart Clothes – Textilien mit Elektronik. Was bietet der Markt der Intelligenten Bekleidung? “ from Sina Carvajal Vargas is based on her diploma thesis from 2005. It was  published in 2009.

In the first chapter, the author begins with definitions of terms required to understand the topic of smart clothes. Furthermore, Sina Caravajal shows the human motivations behind the creation of smart clothes, which she also calls intelligent clothes. She also refers to human needs such as a continuous improvement when it comes to health and medical care in terms of mobile patient monitoring and in what way smart clothes are able to satisfy these. In addition, the author extends the basic knowledge with a short summary of the history of smart clothes.

In the following chapters, the author comprehensively discusses the fields of application for smart clothes such as wellness, healthcare, protection and security, information and communication and fashion, sports and fun, for instance. Moreover, Sina Caravajal describes selected elements which are necessary in order to produce smart clothes. At the end of the book, the author takes a critical look at the technology of smart clothes. Topics such as electro smog, data protection, environmental impacts and legal conditions are pointed out.

This book gives a deep and precise insight into the field of smart clothes. Nearly every aspect is discussed except for the production cycle, the needed machines and the development of this technology. Therefore, this book cannot be recommended to readers who want to get to know the technical and physical aspects about smart clothes. However,  the book is easy to read and understand. It introduces the reader to the topic of smart clothes in combination with selected negative aspects.

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“Intelligente Kleidung – Wie Elektronik in Textilien Einzug hält ”

Do textiles and electronics really fit together? The documentary from German Fair Television from 2013 about smart clothes with the title „Intelligente Kleidung – Wie Elektronik in Textilien Einzug hält“ discusses how to combine textiles with electronics such as sensors or LEDs.

Several experts from the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zuverlässigkeit und Mikrointegration explain in an understandable way how sensible electronic and washable textiles can be bonded together. The documentary shows in detail the way from the technical development to the implementation and the needed machines – for example the whole production cycle from smart clothes technology and how it is tested until the final product is ready to be introduced to the market.

This documentary is recommended for viewers without any background knowledge and for those who are more interested in the technology and production behind smart clothes than in the final products like sportswear. The finished product which the costumer will buy at the end of the production chain is only broached at the end. Furthermore, the documentary does not deal with other aspects such as the medical side of the product or data protection. With a length of nearly six minutes, this film is not too long to watch.

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“Smart Clothes: Ideengenerierung, Bewertung und Markteinführung”

The book with the title „Smart Clothes: Ideengenerierung, Bewertung und Markteinführung“ from Raphael Kromer is based on his dissertation in 2007.

The author begins his dissertation with the definition of the word “smart clothes”,  introduces the conceptual distinction of it and goes on with a broad review of the history of the textile and clothing industry. Moreover, he points out significant milestones of the development of today’s smart clothes, for instance from hand sewing to fully-automated production of clothes. Raphael Kromer looks critically at the technology of smart clothes when it comes to its connection with fashion and the comparison of the durability of smart clothes in contrast to conventional fashion and electronics.

At the end of the book, the author refers to the issue of how far and in what form the companies have already launched and will launch smart clothes in the future. Furthermore, he presents his own study of one market launch with the product smart clothes.

Although the book has more than 300 pages, it is easy to read and understand. It presents the reader with a comprehensive insight into a rather new topic. However, the author neglects the whole technological aspect and he dedicates himself too much to the interest of marketing and commerce. In addition, the business aspect is rather overwhelming and requires a very good knowledge of economics and its theories. At this point, Raphael Kromer goes far beyond the original topic of smart clothes. Therefore, this book cannot be recommended to someone who wants to learn about the technique behind smart clothes.

All in all, the book is worth reading when you want a wide, deep and especially economical insight into the topic of smart clothes and their market launch.

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Reviews by Nicole Basan (MAMM0915)

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