The ability to seamlessly thread digital technology into the fabric of garments has completely revolutionized the wearables industry. From Levi’s integrating Google Jacquard technology into its first smart denim jacket to Ralph Lauren equipping its PoloTech shirt with OMsignal technology, clothing, and apparel manufacturers are beginning to weave state-of-the-art sensors into their products – making them highly interactive pieces of clothing.
JanSport’s Smart Fabric
With a focus on bringing the backpack into the digital era – JanSport, one of the world’s largest apparel companies, has designed 300 backpacks infused with programmable fabric. Still, in development, JanSport’s high-tech backpack is geared towards the young adult looking to personalize their gear with scannable fabric that tells their unique story.
Tairan Wang, COO of Advanced Functional Fabrics of America – the company that reinvents fabrics as programmable devices – explained the JanSport technology in a CNN Tech video: “Each backpack is unique with its pattern, so when the camera sees a bag with the right code, it pulls the information from the server of what the owner chooses to share.”
Encouraging Social Interaction
Whether it’s a favorite playlist, YouTube video of the day, or simply access to the wearer’s Facebook profile page, how much information is shared is at the discretion of the owner. “When a wearer opens the iOS app “AFFOA Looks” and points the smartphone camera at the backpack, a piece of content associated with the backpack will launch,” MIT professor Yoel Fink and CEO of Advanced Functional Fabrics explained to CNN Tech.
Without deviating from its well-recognized crosshatch pattern, JanSport’s connected backpack is interwoven with threads that are arranged in a very strategic pattern. According to CNN Tech, the technology is similar to QR Code except that it blends into the fabric and the “unique stitching pattern allows each backpack to be identified by the smartphone app.” Steven Munn, president of JanSport – Americas, told CNN Tech:
“A backpack is a place to put something to eat, something to drink and something to wear – that’s what’s most important. Now, it becomes potentially an avenue for social interaction.”
Backpack for the Digital Age
Being described as the “backpack patch for the digital age,” JanSport’s concept is still 18 months away from becoming a reality but according to the project leaders, it appears to satisfy a niche in high demand. “It occupies a space we feel is empty right now – which is between being strangers and being connected on a social network,” Wang said.
Mann, impressed with the simplicity of the technology (especially since it requires no wires or batteries), hopes it will one day send e-mail alerts to owners if the backpack goes missing. With an ETA of 18 months before the technology is fully functional, JanSport won’t even speculate costs around its connected backpack. With that being said, 300 of those high-tech JanSport backpacks were given away to MIT students recently – you may be able to get your hands on one if you’re roaming around Boston.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the latest products equipped with fabric tech:
Google’s touch fabric technology is a prime example of the growth the wearable technology industry has seen over the past two years. Ralph Lauren’s Polotech Shirt, for example, is equipped with OMsignal technology containing Bluetooth data reading sensors that measure heart rate, breathing, and calories burned as you workout. With three sensors woven into the fabric of the shirt, this shirt can track the wearer’s performance without the assistance of an accessory device.
Called “the footwear of the future,” the Lechal Mach Insoles are Bluetooth-enabled GPS navigators for your feet. The haptic vibrations you feel like a tap on your shoulder (but on your feet) and the user can easily configure the intensity and pulse patterns. If you get a small vibration in your right shoe, it’s time to go right. It’s as simple as slipping the insoles into your favorite shoe, programming your destination into the app, and you’re on your way.
Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a textile that can be sewn into fabric and then used to power gadgets. It does this by storing energy from the sun and in everyday motion. If you’re indoors, the fabric harnesses energy through motion. If outdoors, the fabric draws from the sun. Wherever you go, energy is being generated.
“The objective was to harvest energy from our living environment, for example, human walking or muscle movement and fabrics; the goal is to drive small electronics,” said Zhong Lin Wang, a Nanotechnologists from Georgia Tech who authored the study. When asked why his energy storing fabric is the center of so much attention, Wang said, “Because these days, flexible electronics, wearable electronics, have become very popular and fashionable today. But each of them needs a power source.”
Made out of microbial cells that shrink and expand with humidity, a team of MIT researchers has designed a breathable moisture-responsive workout suit. In addition, they have successfully engineered a cell-lined running shoe capable of pushing out moisture during a training session. These tiny ventilation flaps are covered in tiny cells that act as sensors when the body begins producing heat and sweat. According to the study, the flaps are driven open when the athlete works up a sweat and closed when the body cools off. As an added bonus, the team at MIT equipped these intuitive cell sensors with a protein element that causes them to light up in response to humidity.
Source: CNN Tech