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The Future of Wearable Technology

(February/March 2016) posted on Mon Mar 07, 2016

Why screen printers should care about the development of apparel infused with electronic sensors and circuitry.

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By Eileen Fritsch

The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking shape, and the specialty printing industry is very much a part of the evolution. The IoT’s ambitious goal is to connect systems, people, and entities to enable us to capture, analyze, and act on information to improve the quality of our lives and make businesses more efficient. It’s transforming all sorts of things – factory equipment, home appliances, thermostats, retail stores, and security systems – and in our industry, it’s already at work in automating our workflows. Sensors track how much ink, time, and media is used on each print job and send the data to a print MIS for accurate estimating and real-time dynamic scheduling on digital displays.

But the IoT is also changing the way fashion designers and apparel manufacturers think about textiles and manufactured garments. Electronically interactive “smart clothing” is expected to be part of the IoT and it could help everyone from infants to the elderly live more safe and healthy lives in the comfort of their own homes.

For example: What if technology-infused garments could help doctors reduce hospital stays and improve patient care remotely? What if sensors in apparel could help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in nurseries, concussions on the football field, or casualties in combat?

What if your T-shirt could tell the fitness app on your smartphone that you were physically ready to handle more intense workouts? What if a garment punished you with a mild electric shock each time you lied? What if golf gloves could help you monitor and correct your golf swing? What if bicycling gloves could light up to display a “turn signal” just like on a car? All of these ideas (and many more) have already been floated either as concepts or prototypes.

Within the next few years, everyone who carries a smartphone or other Bluetooth device might be able to use an app to control how a specific garment looks, communicates, or functions. Eventually, we might not need to carry a smartphone at all. Your clothing could transmit data directly to electronics and displays printed on wallcoverings and window films or built into household devices.


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