Connecting Dark Assets: An ongoing series on how the Internet of Everything is transforming the ways in which we live, work, play, and learn.
It may be true that the clothes make the person, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. But even he never imagined how the Internet of Everything (IoE) would be changing the nature of the clothes we wear. IoE is the ongoing explosion in networked connections among people, process, data, and things. And when IoE is applied to wearable technology, it places the “people” element at the center, connecting users with information they can use to live healthier lives.
The new workout shirt Ralph Lauren introduced in August at the U.S. Open tennis tournament is a great example. With sensors knitted into the fabric, the “Polo Tech” t-shirt records heart rate, breathing rate, breathing depth, steps walked, calories burned, and heart-rate variation. A small clip-on “black box” sends this wealth of physiological information to a smartphone app, which displays the length and intensity of your workout in an attractive graphical format, and keeps track of progress over time. When you’re done with your workout, you can just unclip the black box and toss the shirt into the washer.
The Polo Tech shirt was created in partnership with Canadian company OMSignal, which is developing an array of connected clothing designed for fitness and everyday life. One shirt monitors stress levels and can lead you through a series of relaxation techniques when your stress gets too high. It can also nudge you to get up and move around if you’ve been inactive for a while. The company even envisions a maternity tank top in the future that monitors both the mother’s and baby’s vital signs.
I can envision this same shirt in a manufacturing plant providing safety inputs when an employee is in too close proximity to a piece of equipment. Additional applications for this connected clothing might be in mining, sounding an alert when gases reach unsafe levels. The military could also benefit from similar clothing, which could help keep servicemen and women safe on aircraft carriers.
These new innovations are literally IoE in action. IoE “lights up” dark assets — in this case, the shirt on your back — to illuminate what’s actually going on with you. And that information can lead to informed choices about when to rest, and when to push a little harder. In this sense, the clothes really do help make the man — or woman — a fitter, healthier individual.