16 hours ago
Is smart clothing the next big fitness craze?
March 23rd 2015 / 1 comment
Staying in shape can be hard work, but there's a new range of smart clothing that promises to give you a helping hand...
First came the super smart apps, quickly followed by the rise of workout gadgets - and now, it seems the latest craze to hit the sporting shelves is clothing fitted with fitness devices.
Already a growing market for many tech companies, experts have forecasted that sales of fitness-focused wearable devices are due to top 68 million this year. While some of this growth will be due to already popularised smart bands such as Jawbone and Fitbit, smart garments are also due to flex some serious muscle in the industry over the next few years.
Indeed, research firm Gartner expects shipments of fitnessed focused clothing to hit 26 million units in 2016, up from just 100,000 last year with Indian start-up Lechal looking to be one of the companies cashing in. Originally designed to help the visually impaired with navigation, Lechal’s shoes and insoles vibrate to tell the wearer to turn left or right. Users can also set a custom route with the footwear buzzing if you go off course. So, if you're looking to break a new speed pb and your pace drops, a buzz from the shoes will tell you to speed up (handy, if not a little scary). Lechal's fitness metrics are quite basic: they track distance, calories and steps, and are stored and downloaded to an app after exercise.
Company Glofaster is also trying to take fitness wear into the future with their running jacket that’s fitted with a device that collects performance data. Users set goals like speed or heart rate level, and lights along the sleeve will flash to give feedback such as ‘speed up’ - the idea is one quick glance will allow users to boost and monitor their workouts more effectively. However, these garments don’t come cheaply with this particular jacket retailing at £285 - a high cost that reflects the company's conviction that weekend athletes are willing to fork out big for sophisticated fitness devices.
Taking things even further, Australian start-up Sports Performance Tracking is also hoping to ride the fitness clothing with their tracking devices that measure and compare the performance of a team. Players wear a sports vest containing a GPS, which picks up data like speed and distance. After the game, the computer crunches the numbers to tell you how each player stacked up. By measuring how much stress is on the body, the device can also tell users if they're risking injury by pushing it too hard.
That's the "holy grail" of sports tracking devices, says SPT found Will Strange. "People are spending millions if not billions to try and find it, and no one has it right," he said.
So, the race is well and truly on to see who will invent the next big line of mainstream fashionable fitness wear - we might just have to wait for some slightly cheaper versions before we trial it ourselves...