According to a report from Morgan Stanley Research, athletic apparel and footwear sales have seen a jump of 42 per cent to US $ 270 billion over the past seven years. With this staggering amount of sales and massive jump in less than a decade, it is certain that prospects for growth in athletic apparels are getting stronger and tend to bring in more innovations in such garments. ‘Smart Clothing’ is one of the results of these innovations which is getting linked rapidly with the habits of fitness freaks across the world as health and fitness trend for adults and sports participation for youth have gone global in recent times.
Technology and big data are continuously, rather, increasingly making their space in human lives. Right from how we communicate to how we shop, technology has become our inseparable part and activewear/athleticwear is no different. Shirts, shorts, and leggings can now enhance workout in more ways than one can imagine and when it is about getting into the people’s favourite list, then it is obvious that researchers and developers are certainly looking for ways to make it more technological…
However, the biggest question is what exactly we mean by technology used in athletic apparels? Not very long time ago, Apple launched a ‘Smart Watch’ which could track the calories burnt by an athlete during exercise. But, the next frontier of wearable has nothing to do with the wrist. Instead, activewear which the wearers are already slipping into to sweat, is getting smart- be it leggings that can check their lunge form or shirts that can monitor their heart-beat rate. But, what are the best bits of smart clothing to buy? Team Apparel Resources finds out from some of the top tech garment brands for athletes from across the world.
Spiritus is an Australia-based activewear brand which has developed a new activewear line named ‘Proformance Apparel’ which is said to combine infrared and silver technologies. The line is engineered to increase cell regeneration and improve the energy level of the wearer during hard-core work-out sessions.
The activewear line is a result of Spiritus’ s collaboration with two US-based fabric technology providing companies. Noble Biomaterials provided XT2 silver technology to the Australian brand whereas, Hologenix, LLC, enabled Spiritus to use its Celliant infrared technology.
Infrared Technology: Since fabric is the most significant part in smart clothing, Spiritus explains that its activewear line is made up of the company’s Proformance fabrics which are embedded with thermal reactive minerals. These minerals help fabric in converting body heat into infrared energy which, further, enhances blood circulation and thus recovers overall fresh energy. “Infrared light is proven to promote blood circulation, increase tissue oxygen levels, enhance cell vitality, and regulate body temperature,” states Spiritus.
Silver Technology: Furthermore, while the infrared technology is designed to boost performance, the advanced silver technology is incorporated to keep odours at bay. When sweat mixes with fabrics, it creates a warm, moist environment suitable for bacterial growth. Pure silver technology kills 99.9 per cent of the bacteria, as per Spiritus’ claim, keeping activewear feeling and smelling fresh. In addition, the fabric of the garments also absorbs more than 35 per cent of the moisture content compared to conventional fabric.
The Proformance apparel line (both for men and women) underwent two years of intense research to represent simplicity with modern design. The line is also designed to complement the wearer’s body shape as well as to support body movement.
With women firmly in its sights, Canada-based garment technology company OMsignal has a mission to fix the sports bra once and for all – and make it smart in the process. OMbra records the distances run, respirations, heart rate, and even tells women when they have recovered enough to head back to the gym.
Explaining the technology, OMsignal reveals that OMbra captures biosignals through invisible sensors that are embedded in the bra itself. A small detachable bluetooth-enabled hardware module is clipped onto the bra and sends data of breathing rates and other biometrics in real time to the user’s smartphone. Once received by the smartphone, the data can be used live in an app, and it is also streamed directly to the Cloud, where it can be further analysed using advanced machine learning algorithms.
According to OMsignal, the company has put in a lot of efforts into the actual design of the garment to help address some of the biggest issues many women find when wearing a sports bra. OMbra uses a stretchable and light fabric that conforms to the shape of the body during exercise. It features mesh panels both- in the front and at the back of the bra which make this bra more breathable. “The fabrics which we use reduce the sweat-level of women while exercising,” maintains OMsignal.
It is a fact that most of the women find straps one of the most irritating aspects of a sports bra. Hence, OMbra comes with racerback which helps shift the force of the straps to the side of the bra instead of the back to stop them from slipping onto the shoulders.
For a competitive long-distance runner, it is always necessary to lookout for ways to gain that extra edge. Nowadays, there is no shortage of smartphone apps, fitness tracker devices, cardio monitors, and watches which record data. But often, it can be difficult to apply the vast amounts of information to a particularly chosen sport or discipline.
To overcome this challenge, Vexatec, a Swiss company dedicated towards providing technology in sportswear, has recently launched the first agility shirt in the world with live data tracking. According to Vexatec, the smart shirt is studded with Senscomp Technologies which combine compression clothing with high quality textile sensors, high-end microchips and state-of-the-art software solutions to create intelligent clothing.
VEXATEC is now able to optimise performance with a great focus on the training aspect – helping to get people ready for competition. With highly efficient, real-time electrocardiography signals, its 360-degree monitoring fully tracks the user’s movement and posture. Indeed, it can differentiate between whether an athlete is doing a plank or press-up – two very similar movements.
Furthermore, the shirt’s 3D-A-CLUSTER collects, saves, calculates, and transmits a range of precise live data (electrocardiogram, heart rate variability, breathing rate, body posture, rotational dynamic/gyroscope, physical acceleration (Gforce), and calorie consumption), enabling athletes to accurately evaluate their performance during and after training for optimised results.
“The ‘3D-A-Cluster’ can measure precise live data every 20 milliseconds and transmit it directly to the mobile device. The total that can be counted is 50 measurements per second. Current wearable companies have to interpolate or assume information between the measuring time points. We are, however, the only company with real-life data measuring,” shares VEXATEC.
The Swiss company has already done intensive tests with professional athletes such as Tommy Haas (tennis), Pascal Wehrlein (Formula 1), Leon Draisaitl (NHL – ice hockey), Torsten Frings and Lothar Matthäus (both soccer) and has received quite inspiring results.
With this smart shirt, VEXATEC has included its name in the list of products which combine high-end microchips and state-of-the-art recording technology onto and within a single piece of clothing, with high-level data syncing up seamlessly with the phone and other devices. “The shirts have been designed for everyday use and can be washed up to 150 times,” adds VEXATEC.
WEARABLE X’s NADI X YOGA PANTS
Yoga can be a difficult exercise if you are new for it. The flexibility level it demands is just unbearable sometimes and situation is even tougher for a fresher who tries attempting to get into a challenging posture which might result into a sudden crumble or a jerk in just a few measly seconds. Sydney-born and New York-based tech company Wearable X has an apt solution for this challenge.
Nadi X Yoga pants are the fitness pants which come with built-in haptic vibrations that gently pulse at the hips, knees, and ankles to encourage the wearer to move or hold positions. Vibrations will increase in frequency and intensity to help direct the body to make certain movements. The Pulse, placed on the upper left knee, lasts up to 90 minutes and is connected by Bluetooth to an app, through which users can choose the level of yoga they want to perform.
“When paired with the Nadi X mobile app, visual, and audio cues break down yoga poses step-by-step with corresponding vibrations directly from the pants,” informs Wearable X, adding, “Using the principles of machine learning, the pants and Pulse sensors are designed to help the wearer, over time, to respond automatically to the vibrations when doing a given movement.”