The way the world we live in is increasingly becoming digitally connected is impacting everything, and fashion is no exception.
Wearables are expected to become increasingly popular as the Internet of Things takes off – a process which is expected to accelerate with the launch of the Apple Watch.
Among the big names in high-end consumer fashion which have shown they are keen to embrace this new market is Ralph Lauren, which unveiled its connected Smart Polo shirt at last year’s US Open.
Sensors attached to silver threads inside the shirt pick up 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.
And although this is firmly in the realm of sportswear – an industry which is already brimming with smart IOT tech such as the Babolat smart racquet and Adidas MiCoash smartball – Ralph Lauren has plans beyond that.
David Lauren, the son of founder Ralph, and in charge of global marketing for the company, told Wired “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.”
Data drives every type of business
This 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.
Ralph Lauren first made its name with ties – so perhaps the Smart Tie is on the drawing board and will be featuring across both fashion and tech blogs in the near future?
A wealth of data is generated in the average board meeting – not just in what is said, but in the tone of voice of those who say it, and the biometric readings that could give clues about how we perform under pressure in corporate situations.
Solutions such as Hitachi’s Business Microscope offer opportunities to capture some of this, and integrating this functionality into clothing seems like a logical step.
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 is currently 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.
In the wider fashion world, Big Data is increasingly playing a part in trend forecasting, where social media data, sales data and reporting from fashion shows and influential publications is aggregated to help designers and retailers work out what 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 of data science jobs advertised clearly offers opportunities for those whose aim is to work outside of Silicon Valley and the tech industry. And there are rich opportunities on offer for people with skills in data, but passions elsewhere – whether that’s in fashion, food and drink or finance.