Fitness wearables are no longer just a matter of wrist straps or pieces of practical jewelry. Such technology now works via our clothing. Smart garments are all set to supercharge the fashion industry in the years to come.
We are fortunate to have been living in an era which will go down in history as the apogee of technological advancement.
Technology is an indispensable part of our life today. It has thoroughly morphed all aspects of human life — right from the way we communicate,travel, exchange information to the way we eat, live and drink. Hence, it is but only natural that technology has heralded a propitious change in the way we dress and clothe ourselves today.
After the huge success of fitness wearables like Apple Watch, Fitbit, Polar fitness monitors, etc., etc., smartness and intelligence is progressively making inroads into the clothes we wear. The fashion world, more so in the last few years, is abuzz with words like wearable technology, smart garments, intelligent garments, e-textiles, etc.
Although used interchangeably, in a broad sense, they all refer to any piece of clothing with integrated sensors and digital components. The integrated technology monitors the physical conditions of the user and uses big data analytics to predict and show the results.Newer smart clothing technologies can also sense and monitor the environment condition as well.
A recent survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF) reveals that 92.1 percent of corporate leaders believe 10 percent of people will wear clothes connected to the internet by 2025, and 85.5percent believe 105 percent of eyewear will be internet connected.
Growing use across various industrial verticals such as sports and fitness, healthcare, military and defense is driving the smart clothing market globally. The rising demand for monitoring body activities through sensors is expected to surge the demand for smart clothing market over the forecast timespan. Growing awareness among individuals regarding fitness is providing an impetus to the industry growth. In addition, the inclination of athletes towards the use of these products to prevent injuries and optimize their performance will have a positive impact on the business. Additionally, incorporation of newly developed and advanced fibers such as nanofibers and hybrid materials is expected to drive the growth of smart clothing market.
THE MARKET SIZE
As per the US based global market research and management consulting company Global Market Insights Inc., the size of the smart clothing market was over US$ 150 million with shipments of around 800,000 units in 2016. The market is expected to balloon to over US$ 4 billion by 2024, and shipments are forecast to grow at over 50 percent CAGR.
Smart t-shirts are emerging as one of the most popular and widely used categories of this segment in recent times. Projected to grow at over 50 percent CAGR from 2017 to 2024, these smart garments can provide biometric data such as heart rate, breathing rate and volume, muscle activity, etc., which are utilsed to optimize performance and workout plans professionally. Smart jackets are set to witness growth over the future owing to the ability of these products to control the mobile devices of the wearer and connect to several services such as music and camera, device charging, etc., directly from the jacket.
Military and defense applications are predicted to witness high growth with a CAGR of over 55 percent from 2017 to 2024. In order to gain visibility into the health of a soldier as well as crucial battlefield insights, various government institutions are investing heavily to develop technologically advanced military uniforms.
The US smart clothing market, the biggest hitherto in the world, is estimated to witness huge adoption and will dominate the industry with the significant revenue share. Increasing investments by various sports associations to eliminate the possibility of any preventable injuries of highly paid professional athletes is expected to fuel the industry growth.
The Asia Pacific smart clothing market is expected to witness substantial growth over the forecast timespan. This can be attributed to the growing adoption of various wearable devices coupled with the increasing demand for advanced features in the products. In addition, rising security concerns and increasing military and defense budgets across countries such as India and China is predicted to witness huge demand for these products.
THE INDIAN SCENARIO
The smart garments segment is still in its nascent stages in India, and very under-developed compared to its peers in the Asia Pacific.
The Indian ecosystem is just experiencing the advent of wearable technology and while the initial focus is mainly on the fitness and healthcare sector, there is a lot of scope for innovation in the existing product line – such as gamification, introducing social incentives to encourage community / group adoption as well as building an augmented product by providing a comprehensive set of services and charging based on usage. There are immense opportunities in the other sectors as well.
Here is a look at some of the best Indian companies who are shelling who are breaking new ground in the smart garment industry:
SYGNAL – Hyderabad based startup, Broadcast Wearables Pvt Ltd. is an AI based wearables company on a mission to make everyday devices smart. It is the parent holding of SYGNALS who has the distinction of producing the world’s first touch- enabled t-shirt.
Loaded with a bunch of sensors packed in a small chip, the brand’s smart t-shirts are equipped to track a plethora of things including, the number of steps taken in the entire day, calories burnt even in the slightest form of exercise, floors climbed, distance walked or run. It can also navigate the wearer to a desired location. All the data is synched through Bluetooth to the app, and can be viewed for at least three days.
LECHAL – Hyderabad based Ducere Technologies Pvt Ltd., is another noteworthy name in the field of Indian smart fashion. The company’s offering Lechal uses GPS to track down the users location through a GPS linked app, which then sends vibrations to his soles, thus telling him which turn to take. Built into the shape of a small pod which comes fitted into insoles, it functions through an app installed on a smartphone. The app also allows the user to keep a record of his route and tracks the steps taken, the distance travelled and the calories burned. The pods have a claimed life of 15 days on each charge.
BOLTT – Boltt is a ‘sports tech-brand’ that is developing next generation consumer-centric solutions for personal health & fitness. Known for its advanced artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem, Boltt provides ‘connected fitness solutions’ bundled with the hardware.The hardware includes smart shoes, stride sensor and activity tracker. The Boltt sensor is powered by Garmin’s patented SDM Technology. Boltt’s AI is aimed at solving problems in health and fitness coaching by providing real-time audio feedback and provides customised workout suggestions. As of now, there are Boltt’s wearables portfolio encompasses such as Boltt Fit, Boltt Beat, Boltt Beat 2.0, Boltt Ace, Boltt Verve Luxe, etc.
ARROW – Popular shirt brand Arrow from Arvind Ltd., launched its first smart shirt and India’s first smart garment in 2016. The Smart Shirt comes with an inbuilt chip on the cuff that can be programmed by downloading the Arrow mobile app on a near field communication (NFC)-enabled smartphone. The Smart Shirt allows the wearer to share things like his LinkenIn profile, his Facebook profile or visiting card through a tap on the shirt’s cuff with a smartphone. Among other functions it performs are connecting via Bluetooth to play your favourite songs on the phone or switching your phone to ‘meeting mode’.