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Smart Clothing and Body Sensors: Market Analysis and Forecasts

  • April 2016
  • 65 pages
  • Tractica
Report ID: 3803138


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Smart clothing and body sensors can be considered the ultimate wearables, something that integrates into your life as a garment, footwear, or a sensor device that can track or measure a specific physiological or biometric attribute. Unlike fitness trackers, smart watches, or smart glasses, which have fairly well-defined form factors and use cases, smart clothing and body sensors are seeing a greater degree of experimentation and innovation in use cases. The applications for smart clothing and body sensors span multiple domains including sports, consumer, healthcare, public safety, industrial, and enterprise. This is the second edition of Tractica’s Smart Clothing and Body Sensors report, providing an update on market developments and trends during the last 12 months. Since the last edition, the market has seen a fairly significant amount of activity. In this edition, Tractica has expanded the report’s scope to include new device segments like smart footwear in smart clothing; and wearable patches, movement sensors, and wrist devices within body sensors. Compared to last year, the healthcare and sports segments in particular are seeing more activity around body sensors. In North America, Major League Baseball (MLB) approved the use of specific body sensor wearables on the field during games. Big pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis and healthcare device companies like Philips are using body sensors for clinical trials. Google’s Project Jacquard
and Jabil’s acquisition of Clothing+ suggest that the smart clothing sector is developing at a fast pace both in terms of technology and in manufacturing capabilities. Within smart clothing, we are very close to seeing established sports apparel and footwear brands, or high-street clothing brands launch products that incorporate smart clothing features. Under Armour has already taken the lead, launching one of the first commercial smart shoes.

Overall, the market for smart clothing and body sensors is moving in the right direction, although the body sensors market is estimated to be larger in the long run due to a wider variety of device types and application markets. Also, healthcare is estimated to be one of the biggest drivers for body sensors, particularly connected wearable patches. This report highlights the drivers and barriers for both smart clothing and body sensors, providing a snapshot of the market over the last 12 months and how it will grow in the next 5 years. The forecasts for smart clothing and body sensors are segmented by region, application market, and connectivity technology. Strategic recommendations are also provided for the players currently participating in this market and for those looking to enter the market.

The smart clothing market is seeing the most amount of activity within the sports and fitness area, with sensor-infused shorts, bras, and footwear tracking both biometric and physiological activity. Smart clothing companies hope to compete against fitness trackers and smart watches by providing better accuracy and the ability to target specific niche features like tracking muscle activity. However, the potential of smart clothing extends beyond sports and into the general consumer sector as brands like Levi’s partner with Google in exploring new clothing-based Another area where we are starting to see the adoption of smart clothing is in professional uniforms, which is also measured under industrial applications. The EasyJet partnership with CuteCircuit is a good example of smart clothing entering the professional uniform space.
Uniforms for airlines, hospitals, train companies, road workers, and other professions with a safety component, either for customers or workers, should begin seeing adoption.

Body sensors come in many shapes and sizes, including heart straps worn on the chest, headbands used for electroencephalograms (EEGs) to measure activity of the brain, posture monitors for detecting posture, baby and pregnancy monitors for measuring vitals and movement of a baby, and various other sensors used in both healthcare and sports settings, including movement sensors, wrist devices, and connected wearable patches. The market for body sensors today is in the very early stages, with heart straps being the most prevalent device. Most devices like baby and pregnancy monitors, posture monitors, and headbands are targeting a niche target audience. The healthcare market is expected to provide the largest impetus to this market, with pharmaceutical companies and healthcare device companies beginning to explore the use of body sensors for clinical trials and remote patient monitoring. By 2021, Tractica expects wearable patches to become mainstream with hospitals and clinics using these on a regular basis to keep track of patients and for medication adherence. Also, body sensors are seeing mainstream adoption by sporting leagues like MLB, with the U.S. market slowly accepting the use of on-field body sensors. However, the sports market for body sensors will not represent large volumes, as the population of players is much smaller compared to the number of patients that could be treated by a body sensor.

Smart clothing will benefit from users looking for something beyond fitness trackers and smart watches, including better accuracy, convenience, specific statistics like muscle oxygen levels, and a deeper understanding of their fitness levels. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), close to 300 trials in the country are using wearables, mostly by pharmaceutical companies for clinical trials. This will have a direct impact on the use of body sensors, especially wearable patches and wrist devices. New technologies like laser cutting, assembly by lamination, or ultrasonic welding ensure that the sensors feel like they are part of the garment itself. Google’s Project Jacquard is also another example of work being done to produce conductive yarns that can be used to weave a complete smart garment, with button like modules providing connectivity. Project Jacquard is also an attempt at finding alternate user interfaces (UIs) for smartphones, with clothes becoming a natural and effective medium. All of these advances will ensure smart clothing becomes more comfortable to wear, utilitarian, and easier to manufacture. Smart clothing also has potential in the area of professional workwear uniforms, which are used in hospitals, leisure, hospitality, public safety, transportation, and education sectors, among others. Smart clothing in uniforms can be used for a variety of use cases, including helping with establishing authority, improving productivity and performance, and promoting health and wellbeing.

The types of specialized and detailed metrics that smart clothing products provide, including heart rate variability or muscle oxygen saturation, do not appeal to the average consumer. Unless some of this detailed information is put into context and explained in simple language, providing customized insights into the fitness level of a general consumer, smart clothing is likely to remain niche. Also, most smart clothing companies are focused on getting their product right, having customers feel comfortable wearing the product, or having the companion app work seamlessly on the smartphone. The next stage, which is critical in building stickiness, is building analytics and machine learning capabilities that can adjust and provide customized analysis and push users to their limit, while enhancing their fitness or wellness levels.

Smart clothing brings together two diverse and separate ecosystems: textiles and electronics. Although these two industries can come together to build prototypes or limited batch garments, the main challenge is working together to create standardized processes for high-volume manufacturing. For smart clothing to grow beyond sports and high-end fashion, one needs an Apple or a GoPro type of device that can make smart clothing cool and desirable, but, at the same time, affordable and not only for the high end. This would involve popular clothing brands like Gap, Zara, or H&M introducing a smart clothing line with a smartphone or connected element. Only fashion brands with that level of brand and scale can handle the manufacturing challenges and create awareness within the general consumer base. Body sensors like wearable patches have several technological challenges that limit their longevity and the amount of time they can be used. This has an impact on body sensor readiness for clinical trials. There are also questions about data accuracy, data compliance across different systems that analyze clinical data, data security and privacy, dealing with noisy data, and the high volumes of data that need to be analyzed and converted into meaningful outcomes.

Tractica forecasts that overall shipments of smart clothing will grow from 968,000 units in 2015 to 24.75 million units in 2021, representing a CAGR of 71.6%. The body sensor market includes heart rate straps, baby and pregnancy monitors, headbands, posture monitors, and 3D trackers, wrist devices, movement sensors, and wearable patches. Overall shipments will increase from 2.7 million in 2015 to 68.0 million in 2021.
interactions with smartphones. Within the industrial space, smart clothing will be used by personnel that work with heavy machinery or in hazardous conditions to measure fatigue.

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