Smart garment is one such category which has created its space in the apparel market quite rapidly in recent times. Rising consumerism and health preferences are playing their crucial roles in defining standards for smart garment and its emerging market. Though the western part of the world is seeing more adoption of this category, India is somehow a stagnant market for smart garments and the key reason for this is the lack of understanding by both brands and consumers about this product domain. To change this perception, India-based Broadcast Wearables Pvt. Ltd. offers SYGNAL which is an entire range of smart clothing, each of which is one-of-a-kind, patent pending and ready for scale. Apparel Resources gets in conversation with Saumil Shah, Co-Founder, Broadcast Wearables Pvt. Ltd., and delves deep into how he wants to shake the wearable tech industry with innovative ideas like SYGNAL where tech is integrated into clothes.
During the ’70s, the world connected mobile phones with the internet, which even after almost four decades, is still an evolving process. Technology always tends to bring products nearer to a human body for convenience, and having said that, smart garment is the only medium nearest to our bodies which could be used to solve multiple use cases applicable in a vast array of industries from B2C products to consumer products enhancing wearer’s safety, fitness and health or simply even helping them make stand apart fashion statements.
SYGNAL, in order to enhance the aforementioned parameters, has launched three products which are claimed to be the world’s first in their segments. These products are Fitness T-shirts with Navigation, Programmable T-shirts controlled by Mobile App, and Safety Cycling Jerseys with Motion Capture.
Fitness T-shirt with Navigation is a regular dry fit T-shirt which performs functions of a fitness band like counting steps, distance, calories, and also transmits data to the wearer’s mobile app just like the fitness band. It can also be used for hands-free navigation. If users ride wearing this T-shirt, all they need to do is input the intended destination in the accompanying app and the T-shirt will mildly vibrate on their left/right shoulder before an upcoming turn and prompt the user of the upcoming turn, so they do not need to compromise on their safety by having to look at their GPS screens while travelling. “Navigation is one use case of transmitting Real Time Active Alerts to the body via the garment. The same technology is intended to send Real Time Alerts for wrong posture in its second upgrade,” informed Saumil.
Another breakthrough product of SYGNAL is Programmable T-shirt controlled by Mobile App. In its present form, the wearer can pair the T-shirt with mobile app to type, draw or animate on the T-shirt via the app in real-time. The user can also broadcast customised messages on the T-shirts of multiple other friends of theirs wearing such T-shirts at different locations. “It’s as similar as sending a WhatsApp message to an individual or to a group,” affirmed Saumil.
Although the current form of this T-shirt allows wearers to use it at social events and brand promotions, its more serious application could be tracking the wearer’s vitals and sending them alerts in case of any spike, and it can also be used for transmitting these vitals to their doctor in its next version.
The third exclusive product is Safety Cycling Jersey with Motion Capture. These jerseys are made from regular compression jerseys which are used by cyclists. “Our T-shirt enables cyclists to highlight their position to approaching vehicles in the dark by switching on LED hazard lights on the backside,” shared Saumil. If intending to make a turn, what the rider needs to do is to raise his arm for SYGNAL’s motion capture technology to activate blinking left/right signals on the backside of the jersey, indicating direction of the turn.
According to Saumil, Motion Capture clothing is an entire industry in itself and there are start-ups on the international scene which have already raised millions of dollars only for Motion Capture clothing. “Although we have used this technology to develop a product for the cycling industry, there are multiple other applications of this technology in various industries including AR/VR industry which is based on motion capture itself,” asserted Saumil.
However, the clothing that has electronics embedded within is still not popular among masses, especially in India where the use of such clothing is limited and only a selected group of consumers are showing interest in these garments. Smart garment is often mistaken as an activewear or sportswear which is not true. One of the primary reasons for less adoption is that product developers are offering products with multiple features which are already offered by other kinds of wearables and have not focused on highlighting the USP of smart clothing. A human body is a gold mine of data, and smart clothing, which covers maximum body surface area as compared to any other kind of wearables, is best positioned to mine this data which can be used to enhance safety, fitness and health.
Sharing his views on the contribution of SYGNAL in smart clothing industry, Saumil corroborated, “We are more of a tech company rather than an apparel company. We have now upgraded our processes to such an extent where we can source a fully built garment of any brand and embed our technology onto that product. Being a core tech company, we use technology in a lot of our processes, and this has helped us to have the flexibility to offer our B2B customers the same specs of the garment as used by their brand.”
Smart clothing projects are being undertaken by the globally renowned companies. The most talked about one of recent times is Project Jacquard which is a JV between Google and Levi’s. Subsequently, Google has also filed multiple other patents for many more such smart clothing variants. “When such big players (Google) have started offering products which are miles apart from their core sector focus, there may be a much larger vision of the potential. The smart clothing industry is yet to evolve internationally and India may take much more time to catch on,” commented Saumil.
However, there are a lot of constraints in smart clothing when it comes to increasing its share among consumers. Saumil has the solution which can make it reach more people. As pointed above, rather than just offering multiple generic features already offered by other kinds of variables, smart clothing developers should focus on offering products which help solve actual pain points. Saumil gives an example of the simple case of jogging. “Any average jogger, during his jogging tenure, tends to attain wrong postures several times which can lead to long-term injuries. Fitness band sitting on his wrist can only monitor steps, distance, calories etc., whereas smart clothing covers the maximum body surface. In addition to performing the functions of fitness bands, it can not only help detect wrong posture but can also send real-time alert to user for a wrong posture during actual jog leading to prevention of such long-term injuries,” stated Saumil. Such products, focused on solving consumers’ pain points, need to be introduced by internationally renowned brands trusted by consumers which can lead to mass adoption.
“Yes, the adaption of smart clothing has been very limited as compared to other kinds of wearables. The earlier versions of smart clothing had bulkier electronics. But if you compare offerings of today, technology has evolved by leaps and bounds; most of the quality smart clothing products today offer touch, feel and use factors, extremely similar to our regular clothing, so much so that at times the user does not even realise that he/she may be wearing smart clothing and not the regular one. Although the earlier notion has yet lingered on, this may just be a contributing factor and not the primary reason.” Saumil Shah
The concept of identifying pain points before developing smart clothing has to be replicated for India where each region has its own set of priority pain points which need to be addressed and solved. For example, if mosquito repellant clothing is developed, this can be a huge hit in mosquito-infected zones or the clothing which monitors effects of UV radiation on the skin type while stepping out in the sun can be a boon for a more value-conscious market such as India if it is priced right. “The sad part is India has very rare number of such players which are largely in the unorganised sector. Even a company like CoveIoT (a Tata Group company) is originally an Indian company which eventually went on to have its headquarters in Singapore. We are here to change the way Indian people look at smart garments,” concluded Saumil.