No individual living in the 21st century can claim that they are unaffected by technology. The influence and interference of technology in the daily lives of every single individual is staggering in the least. For the largest part, technology has helped in making services and products extremely personal and customised to the specific needs of the individual buying or investing in them. The digitisation of every aspect of our lives has led to a point where each every device we own are connected, providing a network that never actually leaves us. The connected devices has helped in the easy access and sharing of data. This connectivity is termed as Internet of Things (IoT). The principle purpose of IoT is to collect real time data that can be analysed and shared to every connected device within a very miniscule time period. With all the hand-held devices already able to connect with multiple devices around them, the world is now moving towards wearable technology. The first stage of this endeavour were the smart watches and Fitbits. These devices are equipped with the ability to monitor heart rates, body temperatures, workout or exercise undertaken by the wearer, and alert them whenever an anomaly is identified. The next step from here is the advent of smart clothing.
The current crop of smart clothing are apparels that are designed with various sensors embedded within the design and sewn in various parts of the apparel. However, we are already moving towards a future where textiles mills will be weaving smart fabric. The expectation lies that these smart fabrics — while looking and acting like any normal fabric — would be able to collect data from the wearer and the surrounding environs; and react accordingly. These forms of fabric will be weaved from a material that is electrically conductive; and that can be combined with microprocessors and miniaturised sensors. The smart textile industry is on the rise and it is now the responsibility of retail fashion industry to understand these developments — and transform themselves accordingly. The apparel industry, most likely and eventually, will have to move to a point where the products are not one-off garments but are devices that make the apparel a ‘platform’.
Apparels and fashion is a way for the wearer to express their unique personality. Therefore, in a future where the clothing industry would be essentially manufacturing hardware, organisations will have to ensure that they maintain the essence of fashion in all their products. Apparels can never cease to become diverse, emotional, and expressive. The fear of uniformity in the design of smart clothes might keep the fashion industry away. Amalgamation of fashion and technological hardware would have to be of its essence more than the physical product. Smart clothes will have to find the way in which can remain comfortable in their apparel throughout the day. A complete acceptance of smart clothes will require a drastic change in the populace. The behavioural shift will only be made easy if the new-age apparels are designed to empower them instead of constricting their daily activities. Therefore, the smart clothes will not have to be customised to match style, emotion, and personality; but also an individual’s body heat mechanics, daily activity level, and the usual environment they exist in. For example, smart clothes for a teacher will be different from those of a reporter, which in turn will be starkly different from those manufactured for those working in heavy industries. Successfully achieving this extreme level of diversity while remaining functional is one of the biggest challenges that the smart textile industry will face going forward.
Transformed Retail Outlets
The retail space will have to go through dramatic changes once smart clothes become the norm. It will then be unlikely to find retail outlets with thousands on apparels in display and in store. The crux of the smart clothes technology will be customisation. This would require that every apparel to be tailor-made for the wearer from the scratch. Consequently, the entire concept of store-bought, ready-to-wear clothes becomes a thing of history. Brick-and-mortar retail stores will shrink in size and their principal duty will be to showcase latest styles and patterns, which will be customised for the customer.
The technology is posed to develop to point where wearer can change every aspect of the clothes they are buying. The stores would eventually develop smart mirrors. The smart mirrors would allow the customers to try different pieces of clothing, and make virtual changes — such as length, size, colour, design, and patterns — in real time before placing the order for their customised smart clothes. The technology will help customers to create custom-built pieces that are unique and truly an expression of themselves.
Another point in favour of smart clothing will be the speed of manufacturing. The time between trying the clothes, customising the various pieces, tailoring them, and delivering to the customer can be reduced to hours as technology develops. The idea that unique pieces of clothing can be brought to life in such short periods of time is an added advantage that the present fashion industry fails to provide.
What the Future Might Look Like
With the exponential growth of technology and ingenuity of the human mind it is a safe bet to assume that smart clothes will develop the currently inapprehensible technology of dynamic fashion. The future promises us of a world where clothes will have the ability to transform through the day from work wear to casual wear. The technology will allow the wearer to choose a style that they need to wear for an event that the apparel will modify instantly to mirror that particular style. Imagine going from tailored shirts and trousers for the office to breezy casuals for an evening with friends, without having to physically change into different clothes.
The future is promising and exciting for the fashion industry with the growing capabilities of smart fabrics. The cocoon of technology that wraps our daily lives will transform every aspect of our existence and clothing is not an exception. However, it is to be realised that fashion industry is a factor of consumer demands — therefore, consumer behaviour and the technology’s ability to cater to the emotional needs of a fashion enthusiast would be paramount in ascertaining the success of smart clothes.
About Fusion Informatics
A huge array of technology that we expect to take over the world in future might be in its nascent stages right now, or might even be just a germ of idea in a teenager somewhere. The dynamic nature of science and transformative ability of engineering is not easy to navigate. The road is unknown and often filled with unexpected twists. At Fusion Informatics, our duty is to explore the world of technology and identify the trends that are likely to change human civilisation. We, then, bring these technologies to our clients in a manner that is not overwhelming, but definitely metamorphic.