By Bernard Marr
Rumor has it that underwear is getting a lot more interesting these days.
In fact, your undergarments are actually getting smarter, thanks to AI innovation in the e-textile industry.
Myant Inc., a leading innovation hub for wearables, has developed smart underwear that could become one of the most reliable and effective ways to detect and prevent health issues. The underwear current includes biometric sensors that measure things like sleep quality, activity, stress level, temperature, and electrocardiography (ECG)*.
As consumers wear the underwear, sensors in Myant’s SKIIN brand fabric send data back to a corresponding app. Myant’s platform analyzes the data, provides guidance on lifestyle changes, and allows users to share information with healthcare providers.
Underwear is a good choice for a smart garment because it makes consistent, close contact with the body – a must-have for continuous skin sensors.
Myant’s underwear innovations fit into the larger trend of e-textiles and smart clothing, powered by artificial intelligence and tiny semiconductor technology. Scientists are replacing clunky health monitoring devices like watches and chest straps with comfortable smart garments.
Health providers and developers believe advances like these will increase compliance and lead to better healthcare outcomes.
What Can Smart Garments Do?
Fiber technology works by embedding sensors directly into textiles (kind of like weaving additional yarn into an existing piece of fabric) or by applying sensors to the top of the fabric. Either way, the garment needs to have direct contact with your skin as it’s being worn.
The use cases for e-textiles go far beyond just health monitoring. Smart garments are being developed to do things like:
● Diagnose comfort levels of amputees by monitoring the interaction between them and their artificial limbs.
● Assess patterns in athletes’ performance, and deliver small electric shocks to underperforming muscles
● Wake up sleepy drivers on the road before accidents occur, with built-in fatigue monitoring
● Temporarily disable couples’ smartphones so they can focus on spending time together
● Connect to smart home systems, to do things like changing the thermostat when your body is cold (or hot)
● Measure hand function in patients who have neurological disorders
● Improve the safety of firefighters and other first responders during emergencies by monitoring heart rate and body temperature
The Future of Smart Clothing
The number of potential applications and markets for e-textiles is vast, including military and space, automotive, haptic suits for virtual reality, sports and fitness, and assistive clothing.
IDTechEx’s latest report on this emerging market, “E-textiles and Smart Clothing 2020-2030: Technologies, Markets and Players”, predicts that the industry will be worth over $1.4 billion by 2030.
As this industry grows and companies figure out how to incorporate this advanced technology into their products and bring them to market, your favorite article of clothing might just be a pair of smart underpants that remind you when to take your insulin or grab a glass of water.
If you would like to learn more about technology trends such as wearable tech, then you might like my book: Tech Trends in Practice: The 25 Technologies That Are Driving The 4th Industrial Revolution.