Issue link: http://read.ca.pwc.com/i/346337
Up front Summer 2014 31 Smart outfits will take on a whole new meaning as wearable tech moves from the gym to the boardroom and the factory floor Dress for success Bluetooth earpieces are hardly the height of fashion. But as they've grown less clunky and conspicuous, these devices have paved the way for wearable technology that looks like ordinary clothing and accessories. It won't be long until we slap on an e-shirt or a biometric bracelet before heading out to work or play. The wearable tech or smart clothing market will blossom into a $19-billion (U.S.) industry by 2018, versus $1.4-billion (U.S.) in 2013, according to U.K.-based Juniper Research Ltd. Although personal devices have gotten most of the attention, many businesses will use smart clothing in the future. Here are three categories that should see massive growth. Up front Summer 2014 31 Special feature | Game-changing technologies Smart clothing Electronic textiles Who's wearing them now: While training for their gold- and silver-medal moguls performances at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Canadian skiing sisters Justine and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe wore electronic tank tops developed by Montreal-based Hexoskin. The wireless Hexoskin top, which blends in at the gym, captures metrics such as heart rate, breathing volume and activity level via sensors linked to a small recording device worn on the waist. E-garments are typically shirts; mostly used by serious athletes, they can cost upward of $400. Unlike that first Bluetooth headset, these threads have been stylish from the start. Where they'll go: At some point, prices will drop and these fabric gadgets will go mainstream. The business world will find uses for e-textiles, McIntyre predicts. CEOs will wear shirts that keep tabs on their stress levels; miners will don garments that warn them when underground temperatures get too hot; factory workers' clothing will monitor oxygen levels; and doctors will prescribe shirts that scan for conditions such as an enlarged heart or an irregular heartbeat. Uf Glasses and heads-up displays Who's wearing them now: Anyone willing to shell out $1,500 (U.S.) can buy Google Glass, the Internet giant's contribution to smart clothing. These eyeglasses allow wearers to call up online information and take photos and videos. Vancouver's Recon Instruments makes ski and snowboard goggles that display maps and performance metrics like speed and time in the air. Facebook, Inc. recently spent $2-billion (U.S.) to buy Irvine, Calif.-based Oculus VR, Inc., whose virtual reality heads-up display is mostly used for gaming, but will probably have training and other business applications, too. Where they'll go: "It's wearable cameras that will gain the most traction with enterprise and small companies," says McIntyre. There's a huge market for such headgear in construction, roofing, energy, healthcare and other sectors where people perform complex tasks, she notes. McIntyre envisions a world where construction workers get on-the-job training via their glasses and engineers walk oil-rig workers through a repair in real time: "You can keep doing what you're doing as you watch the instructions [onscreen]." Surgeons will be able to more easily monitor vital signs, too. Much like today's flight simulators, the Oculus Rift display could mimic real-life situations for firefighters and other workers who do dangerous jobs. Bracelets and armbands Who's wearing them now: So far, bracelets and armbands are enjoying the most success, mainly with health and fitness enthusiasts, says Angela McIntyre, a San Francisco-area Research Director with information technology research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc. The devices can monitor everything from distance walked to calories burned to sleep patterns. "People want to learn more about themselves and become more healthy or just feel better," McIntyre explains. "These bands will help them do that." Where they'll go: If Toronto-based Bionym Inc. has its way, people will be able to open locked doors, start cars and pay for goods with the swipe of an arm. The Nymi bracelet, which Bionym plans to start selling this fall, uses biometric sensors to identify wearers by their unique heartbeat. Although its applications will be limited at first, the Nymi has plenty of potential. At launch, the bracelet will link to a secure smartphone app holding website passwords and a bitcoin wallet (also stored on a mobile) that only the wearer can access. It will interact with devices such as Bluetooth door locks.