Wearable computing is lauded as the next evolution of computing and interactivity. Today this is manifesting in the market with “smart” watches and displays and the first wave of “smart glasses.” The next step in wearable computing is in “smart” clothing, i.e. fabrics integrated with various electronics and computing components and energy harvesting, and even fabrics that incorporate some of those capabilities themselves. Some clothing that could be plausibly considered “smart” has been available for years, essentially as a niche market.
NanoMarkets sees this category poised to emerge into the spotlight and becoming a significant revenue generator for various levels in the supply chain, from materials suppliers to retailers. The key lies in the progress of development and commercialization of new and improved fabrics and sensors that are the essential building blocks for the capabilities — and value — of various smart clothing products. Three main barriers historically have been, and continue to be, at the center of development for “smart clothing” to pave the way for mass adoption: improved connectivity between modules, improved washability of smart fabrics, and standardized protocols. Thus, here also lies the opportunity for both materials and sensor manufacturers to develop new and improved types of smart fabrics and sensors: from lighter, soft flexible sensors to functional fabrics, conductive polymers, and even fibertronics that can function without the need for sensors.