A new wave of smart clothing features built-in technology

The majority of young adults have a positive opinion of wearable devices, which have evolved to measure fitness, emotions, and even sexual activity. The latest iteration of wearables is taking the category in a new direction, weaving technology into the very fabric of clothing.


As highlighted in our soon-to-be-released report, Game Changers, innovations in athletic apparel are increasingly popular, from moisture-wicking technology to heart-rate monitoring. The latter can be found in Polar’s new Team Pro Shirt, currently available only to athletic teams. The shirt embeds the technology of Polar’s wireless heart-rate sensors and fitness trackers (available as a bracelet or a chest strap) directly into the garment. In addition to measuring heart rate, the sensors in the fabric are GPS-equipped to track motion and provide data on speed, distance, and acceleration.


One of the highlights revealed at this year’s SXSW was the first commercial product of Google’s Project Jacquard experiment in partnership with Levi’s. The left sleeve of the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket utilizes Google’s special fabric, which is woven with conductive yarn and a small, rechargeable touchpad that clips inside the garment. The wearer uses an accompanying smartphone app to program certain tasks, such as playing music or answering the phone, which are communicated through designated points on the sleeve’s touchpad. Though functionality will be smoother with Android products, the jacket is compatible with Apple devices, too.


Samsung is joining the smart athletic apparel trend with its Body Compass line. Sensors throughout the tank top and athletic pants are powered by a processor and battery discreetly hidden in a button-like disk. The accompanying app measures heart rate, stance, and body fat and can give real-time feedback on form and more. The company’s Smart Suit is also equipped with a button-like disk, but rather than powering sensors in the clothing, it communicates with a wearer’s smartphone to complete tasks, such as putting the phone on silent or sharing contact information.