Technology is being developed and produced at an all-time high rate. Products that were considered as science fiction are a part of our daily lives now. Smart Clothing wearables are one such example. Smart Clothes are basically garments like shirts, socks or shoes that consists of sensors and computing devices that help track body activity and health statistics like heart rate, skin temperature, oxygen saturation etc. ABI Research, a forerunner in new technology intelligence has predicted that the smart clothing market will top 31 million device shipments annually by 2022. In contrast to 2017’s under 5 million, that’s a staggering increase. That’s a 40% CAGR. Smart Clothing will have the 2nd highest growth rate after hearable over the duration of the forecast period. Although smart clothing doesn’t have that mass market appeal, but its predicted growth will be due to its highly targeted consumer application in sports, fitness and wellness industries.

In the words of Ryan Harbison, Research Analyst at ABI Research; “The majority of smart clothing shipments will be primarily driven by consumer applications, with growing enterprise applications in worker safety and monitoring over the next few years. Today’s market targets mostly sports professionals, as the clothing offers more accurate readings than other wearables because it is so close to the skin and other vital organs. As vendors expand the use case potential, the technology will prove its worth, cut its costs, and reach a wider array of both consumer and enterprise users”

Innovative brands like Sensoria, OMsignal, and Hexoskin are succeeding to their products that are addressed to very specific market and cater to very precise use cases. Recently conglomerates like Ralph Lauren, Google and Levi’s has also joined the market owing to its growing popularity. ABI Research predicts that it is only a matter of time before tech giants also join this emergent market.

Harbison has some concerns; “Before smart clothing reaches mass adoption, the technology behind its embedded sensors needs to improve. The sensors have to withstand conditions that other wearables don’t, such as body sweat, wash cycles, and extreme temperature variances. Vendors will have to solve this through innovative manufacturing and do so before consumers voice these concerns.”

Most of the current smart clothes have detachable sensors that must be removed before washings. If the sensors are stitched permanently, they need to be replaced after 60 to 70 washes at maximum. This limited wash cycles issue takes away from the efficacy of these products.

To conclude, Harbison adds. “Vendors need to ensure that their products have rock-solid use cases and that their device’s features target specific verticals and applications. For instance, Google and Levi’s new Commuter Trucker Jacket is one of the most exciting new products within this market, but even that is targeted at a very specific niche market: the urban bike commuter. Vendors should focus on continuing to create targeted consumer-centric applications while also developing enterprise applications to give this market wider appeal”

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Smart Clothing and Textile Manufacturing report2012