Ralph Lauren’s Smart Shirt and the Future of Fashion

by   |   May 28, 2015 2:00 pm   |   0 Comments

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr

The world that we live in is becoming increasingly digitally connected. This trend is having an impact on everything, and fashion is no exception.

Wearable technology, often referred to simply as “wearables,” is expected to become increasingly popular as the Internet of Things takes off – a process that is expected to accelerate with the imminent launch of Apple’s Watch.

Among the big names in high-end consumer fashion that have shown they are keen to embrace this new market is Ralph Lauren, which unveiled its connected polo tech shirt at last year’s US Open tennis tournament.

Sensors attached to silver threads inside the shirt pick up the wearer’s movement data as well as heart and breathing rates, which can be monitored on the accompanying smart phone app and, potentially, uploaded to the cloud for analysis, although the company has not yet released details of exactly how this will work.

For those who are wondering, yes, you can wash the polo tech shirt, but you have to remove the slightly-larger-than-credit-card-sized Bluetooth transmitter first. The company currently is looking into ways that the device can be shrunk – perhaps eventually ending up the size of a button – or incorporated inside the fabric in a way that makes removing it unnecessary.

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And although the polo tech shirt is firmly in the realm of sportswear – an industry that already is brimming with smart IoT tech such as the Babolat smart racquet and Adidas MiCoach smart ball – Ralph Lauren has plans beyond that. Ralph Lauren made its name with ties, so perhaps the Smart Tie is on the drawing board and will be featured across both fashion and tech blogs in the near future? According to David Lauren, the son of founder Ralph and in charge of global marketing for the company, “A lot will come in the next few months. We are a lifestyle brand, a major fashion luxury brand. I want to be able to gather this (biometric) information in a boardroom or from a baby in a crib. We’ll find new needs and we’re just at the beginning.”

A wealth of data is generated in the average board meeting – not just in what is said, but who says it and the manner and tone of voice in which they say it. Biometric readings of meeting participants could deliver useful information about how we perform under pressure in corporate situations. Solutions such as Hitachi’s Business Microscope offer opportunities to capture some of this information, and integrating this functionality into clothing seems like a logical step.

Data Drives Every Type of Business

The development of smart clothing is a clear sign that every industry is waking up to the potential benefits of smart, connected, and big data-driven innovation, and no one wants to be left out. Effectively, all businesses are becoming data businesses.

In the wider fashion world, big data increasingly is playing a part in trend forecasting, in which social media data, sales data, and reporting from fashion shows and influential publications are aggregated to help designers and retailers work out which are the season’s must-have looks.

Over the last few years, the major players in every industry have had their eyes opened to the possibilities that technology – and, in particular, connected, data-enabled technology – can offer them. No one wants to be left behind in the big data and Internet of Things gold rush.

The huge increase in the number and variety of data science jobs being advertised clearly offers opportunities for those whose aim is to work outside of Silicon Valley and tech industry. And there are rich opportunities on offer for people with skills in data but with passions that lie elsewhere – whether that’s in fashion, food and drink, or finance.

Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, strategic performance consultant, and analytics, KPI, and big data guru. He helps companies to better manage, measure, report, and analyze performance. His leading-edge work with major companies, organizations, and governments across the globe makes him an acclaimed and award-winning keynote speaker, researcher, consultant, and teacher.

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