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February 15 2011


Clothes That Say It All

Imagine a apple area humans are encased in an abandoned "bodynet," a wireless, apparel-based computer arrangement that lets them accomplish buzz calls, analysis e-mail, watch TV, accept to music and pay bills as they airing down the street. Michael Dertouzos, the backward administrator of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Computer Science,Monster Energy Hats anticipation that book in his 1997 book, What Will Be.

Sound farfetched? Well, back then, the technology and appearance media accept promised consumers that computer-enabled able clothes — conceivably the aboriginal antecedents of bodynets — will anon be de rigueur. Yet afar from a actual baby pilot activity endure year involving active jackets fabricated by jeansmaker Levi Strauss & Co. and Dutch electronics aggregation Philips, wearware charcoal a rare-rare commodity.

But that began alteration this abatement if a Finnish accouterment company, Reima, became the aboriginal European close to barrage a abounding band of technically enabled apparel. Its aboriginal artefact is the Smart 3305, a ski anorak with a advertisement physique belt (which can be bought separately) that allows the wearer to accomplish a one-way GSM alarm by affairs a tag and talking into a accept microphone. "You can analyze it to a walkie-talkie, which is aswell one-way advice but with bound range," says managing administrator Pentti Hurmerinta. "This has all-around range." Reima is targeting abundance climbers, skiers and hikers by business the assemblage as assurance gear. Other abeyant barter cover ski schools, emergency accomplishment teams and companies that apply alfresco crews, like architecture firms.

Early next year, Reima will accompany out a additional adaptation that offers two-way wireless buzz calls, as able-bodied as an undershirt that can adviser the wearer's pulse. Aswell on tap for next fall: a bolt "pocket" with a congenital web browser that can be beat on a shirt or jacket. Its affectation awning slides out from the pocket, and the browser makes a wap affiliation to the Internet.

Smart Accouterment technology doesn't appear cheap: the belt retails for about $300, the anorak for $310. Reima hopes to advertise 500 of the belt/jacket apparel this year at accouterment shops and 4,500 of the belts through adaptable buzz stores. The aggregation projects sales of 30,000 items next year, with the belt abandoned accounting for 90% of the market.

That will calmly beat the 2,500 jackets awash by Levi in its year-old experiment. Levi offered them at a scattering of outlets beyond Europe, at $600 to $900. Each anorak had a adaptable buzz and an MP3 amateur stitched into it. The aggregation says it was a success, admitting not anybody agrees. "They sat on the shelves," says Matt Devlin, a agent at Bikeadelic, a London motorcycle boutique that handles burghal sports wear. "We awash one or two, and I anticipate the bang-up gave one to his son."

While Levi isn't committing itself to any added able clothes, Philips Design, a analysis assemblage aural the ancestor company, is alive on the next bearing of wearable electronics, which won't await on off-the-shelf technology. Philips has created abstracts that conduct electricity, abstract sensors and fabrics with switches, base and adjustable displays as allotment of the weave. And admitting Philips Design CEO Stefano Marzano won't animadversion on timing, he notes, "We are exploring with addition [clothing] cast opportunities for the accumulation market."

Still, bringing able accouterment to bazaar is a difficult process, which explains why there accept been added promises than products. "If it were easy, anybody would be accomplishing it," says Alberto De Conti, Levi's addition aggregation leader. Garment makers and electronics manufacturers, for example, accept actual altered approaches to R and D. Accouterment companies usually yield 18 months to accompany a new artefact to market; four to 5 years is the barometer for an electronics firm. Addition wrinkle: electronics designers never had to anguish in the accomplished about accepting their accessories survive in abrasion machines and dryers. Marzano says that bed-making absolute technology into clothes or accessories doesn't accomplish the economies of calibration all-important to aftermath articles with accumulation address cheaply — appropriately Reima's and Levi's whopping amount tags. But Philips Design's new abstracts are beneath big-ticket to produce, he claims, giving them greater bazaar potential.

Hurmerinta says that, initially, able clothes have to action added than change to abstain the stigma of concise trendiness. That's why Reima is apperception on clothes that are "functional and practical." He's assertive that aural 10 years wearable technology will become as accepted as adaptable phones. "The abeyant bazaar is just as big," he enthuses. If he's right,new era hats we all may be donning bodynets eventually than even M.I.T.'s Dertouzos imagined.
Tags: new era hats

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