Writing for Forbes a couple of years ago, Haydn Shaughnessy said Apple should forget any plans for an "iWatch" (which, of course, was dubbed the “Apple Watch” when it finally debuted) and design clothes instead. The idea of clothing embedded with technology -- let's call them "iWear" products -- is intriguing.
Shaughnessy felt Apple needs to work on the "bridge between computing and wearables." The result: pervasive computing.
"Pervasive computing has reached a similar convergence point," Shaughnessy wrote. ”Sensors will be distributed around our bodies, through our clothes, and around our environment, linking us to more computing intelligence. But this converged market needs a company with exceptional design values and an unusual ability to explore and create the use cases. It needs a stylish innovator that can cross over from geekdom to fashion. Who does that sound like?"
Several years ago, Smartex -- a company near Pisa, Italy co-founded by biomedical engineer Danilo De Rossi -- announced plans to create clothing that not only provides cover, warmth, and style but also keeps its wearers healthy. The "Wealthy" outfit (the name is a loose portmanteau for "wearable health care system") was the most developed of Smartex's recent designs at the time.
It was powered by a tiny embedded lithium battery. The Wealthy was a washable unitard that read the wearer's vital signs and beamed the data wirelessly to a computer. Information on posture and movement was measured by the stress on sensors built into the garment. I'm sure Apple could come up with something even cooler. As far as I know, the Wealthy outfit never came to fruition.
Tomorrow's super-powered clothing will likely include garments that can recharge your smartphone and more. For instance, electronics could get recharged in the future simply by plugging them into your outerwear. Australian researchers are working on clothing that can harvest energy from a person.
The garments would incorporate devices to convert vibration energy from a person's movements into electricity. Advanced conductive fabrics would carry this energy to flexible batteries.
What's more, underwear and sports uniforms could go weeks without washing thanks to self-cleaning fabrics developed by scientists working for the U.S. Air Force. (Of course, I'm not sure that I'd want to wear unwashed underwear for weeks at a time, but maybe that's just me.)
The new technology attaches particles just nanometers (billionths of a meter) wide to fibers using microwaves, and these nanoparticles repel water, oil and bacteria. You can already buy apparel that battles bugs, fights the sun's UV rays, battles perspiration stains, repels water and more while resisting wrinkling. However, coming up with innovative textiles is one thing; getting people to wear them is another.
Who better to tackle the job than Apple? Imagine an Apple-branded jacket that could power your iPhone. Or an Apple logo-ed running shirt that would match with your Nike + Apple kit and fight sweat stains. You've got Fruit of the Loom undies; why not Apple undies? Why not iWear?
The graphics accompanying this article are courtesy of Healthinfomatrics, PC Mag, and Kurtzweilai.net.