3 Smart Clothes & E-Textiles That Improve Your Look & Life

Our clothes are getting smarter and are increasingly helping to improve our lives. It’s a small but growing area of the wearable market. Garments can leverage technology to enhance the wearer’s experience across a range of scenarios.

However, for many people, smart clothes and e-textiles may be completely new. That’s why we are here to break down this bold new technology and highlight some of the core benefits of smart clothes.

Climate Comfort Clothes

Perhaps the core function of any garment is to provide a layer of protection against the environment. Whether it’s keeping dry during rain, keeping us warm in the cold, or clothes that forgo sleeves and legs during the summer. Wearable tech is moving clothes into a new era where they can have a more direct impact on temperature and climate control.

One example is air-conditioned clothes, which are really garments that have fans built-in. I have previously written about these smart clothes and truthfully, I am largely unimpressed. Simply put, cooling clothes will make you look decidedly uncool because they are bulky and have fans hanging off them.

That said, there’s no doubt air-conditioned garments can play an important role in industries such as construction. There are already signs of improvement, with consumer-focused air-conditioned clothes becoming more fashion-conscious. Wait a few years and I expect the integration of fans will be seamless enough to wear these clothes without looking strange.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of climate comfort within the wearable market is a more subtle implementation of technology. Specifically, the pursuit of improved moisture-wicking and waterproofing.

Tech Integration

Building subtle tech tools into clothes is easier than adding large components like fans. That’s why the tech integration area of smart clothing is becoming extremely exciting. Garments can charge devices on the move, provide NFC and Bluetooth, and offer connectivity to apps and services.

Google’s Project Jacquard is arguably the leader in this area, driven by the Levi Commuter Trucker Jacket. Including gesture and touch areas on the sleeve, this denim jacket allows users to tap into numerous services, such as maps and music. Furthermore, you can take and dismiss calls with simple taps, swipes, and gestures.

Yes, this is an extension of what your smartwatch can do so you may only need one, a watch, or a jacket. It will be interesting in the coming years to see how tech companies differentiate smart clothes from smartwatches, allowing customers to have both and for both to be functional in their own ways.

Body Data

The fitness market has exploded with the popularity of smartwatches and fitness trackers. However, the concept behind these devices maybe even better if it’s directly integrated and woven into our clothes.

Tech companies agree and an increasing number of garments are available that bring fitness tracking to your clothes. What functions are available depends on the product, but below are some of my favorites:

Nadi X Yoga Pants: Much more than a fitness tracker, the Nadi X will actively help you during yoga sessions. Leveraging built-in haptic vibrations, the pants put slight pressure on hips, ankles, and knees to encourage you to move and hold positions.

Ambiotex Smart Shirt: Ambiotex takes basic fitness tracking to the next level by developing a smart shirt that is truly for those who spend a lot of time in the gym. It provides real-time feedback on heart rate variability, your anaerobic threshold, and stress.

Looking Ahead

Smart clothes are becoming more common and this allows tech companies to expand the capabilities of garments. Again, it will be interesting to see how developers differentiate the functions from products that already deliver similar features.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about smart clothes and e-textiles is that the market is still new. In fact, it is nowhere near mainstream, allowing developers to hone their products. In the coming years, expect vast improvements in what smart clothes can do and what they look like.


Ring Security Drone: In-Home Security Threat or Peace of Mind?

Earlier this month, smart home giant Ring introduced a product called the Always Home Cam, one of those rare devices that instantly make you go wow! It is also something of a contradiction. On the one hand, it is an extremely cool piece of hardware that most tech fans will love. On the other hand, it is a definite WTF product if you stop to think about it.

If the Ring Always Home Cam has flown under your radar, here’s what you need to know. It is an autonomous “security” drone that functions in the interior of the home. It is designed to make automatic flying sweeps of the inside of your property to check for security holes and other potential risks. Importantly, the drone has a camera that users can tap into when they are away from their property.

And it’s this camera that presents the real problem with the Always Home Cam. Specifically, who in their right mind will want to put a camera in their home? Who in their right mind would want to put a camera that can fly around from room to room?

In a world where people are increasingly concerned about their privacy and how companies access personal data, the Always Home Cam seems to be a terrible idea. At best it is a misguided product from Ring, and at worst it is a nefarious attempt to gather information from customers.

For what it’s worth, Ring says there is no way for the drone to spy on people. According to the company, when the UAV lands in its dock, the camera is obscured. In other words, it will not be filming you when you sit on your sofa watching Netflix every night. Despite this promise, Ring is less forthcoming about what happens to the data the camera gathers when it is in flight.

Something interesting is happening with how consumers view drones. Many of the risks regarding privacy are largely forgotten. Amazon is continuing to push drone technology as a way to deliver goods, but Ring is bringing that same tech into the realm of home surveillance.

So, what does the Ring Always Home Cam mean?

Before continuing and ripping the Always Home Cam apart, I want to say it is both a mega-cool product and a feat of tech engineering. Ring admits it was hard to build because creating an autonomous vehicle to fly around the confines of a home and miss objects is not easy. So, on a technical level, the product is amazing.

However, in terms of what it brings to the home surveillance party, it is much more worrying. For a start, what does the Always Home Cam do that a regular security camera cannot? Sure, it flies from room to room when you’re out, but that seems more gimmicky than a genuinely useful tool. Why would someone breaking into a home be more worried about a drone than they would a standard camera? If the drone had guns or a giant net, maybe.

In fact, it may be much easier for a burglar to remove the Always Home Cam from the equation. It is much easier to simply swat it out of the air and destroy it. That small hidden boring security cam is looking better by the minute, right?

Ring also says the drone can navigate your home through the user pre-installing a map of the interior. That sounds good, and with lidar and probably a downward camera as well, the device should move around without bumping into things. However, what about if you leave that vacuum cleaner pole against the wall, or move furniture, or close a door? Ring has not explained what happens in these situations… does the user have to generate another map?

Here’s the thing about drone tech, and indeed any AI-driven robotic device. On the surface, all these products will look amazing. They dazzle us by taking something mundane and making it look cool. Ring’s Always Home Cam does that. However, with any of these technologies, it is always worth considering whether the product is more useful than what it wants to replace. Early impressions suggest the Always Home Cam simply won’t be and is probably doomed to fail.

Drones are interesting and will influence our changing lives in the coming years and decades. That said, I am still not sold on them ever becoming functional within a home. Where does it end? We now have a drone for interior security… will we also get one for heading to the kitchen to get a beer from the fridge? Perhaps one day our homes will be full of mini flying drones buzzing around making easy tasks more complicated than they need to be.

Sorry Ring, this is a cool idea and looks good, but cool is sometimes not enough.