Overview of Smart Clothing Products
"Wearables" in the truest sense of the word, the smart clothing category encompasses sensor-embedded shirts, shorts, hats, socks, shoe insoles and more. While some of these products have been designed with a sport-specific focus, others track general health and athletic performance metrics. Read on to gain a sense of the products in this space.
Updated: July 18, 2015
Athos offers a sensor-embedded athletic shirt and shorts. The Athos shirt contains 12 electromyography (EMG) sensors for measuring muscle activity, 2 heart rate sensors, and 2 breathing sensors. The Athos shorts contain 8 EMG sensors and 4 heart rate sensors. The fabric is rated UPF 50 and has a compression fit, 4-way stretch weave, and flat seam construction.
An Athos "Core" is a small device that you place within a pocket of the clothing. It collects data from the sensors and transmits it via Bluetooth to your mobile device. Only one Core is needed, even if you are wearing both the shirt and the shorts.
The Athos clothing interfaces with an app that is iOS-compatible (for iPods and iPhones running iOS 8+). The app provides real time data on heart rate, active time, resting time, and muscle usage. The app provides workout reports that include exercise form, muscle utilization, muscle exertion, balance, heart rate (including peak heart rate and average heart rate), respiration rate, and calories burned. You can view workout data set by set so you can tweak form and see improvements on a granular level.
Hexoskin offers a range of biosensing fitness clothing in men's, women's, and junior sizes. The men's smart shirt comes in sleeveless and full sleeve models; the women's and junior sizes only come in sleeveless models -- the women's shirt has a built-in bra. The shirt material is machine washable, lightweight and breathable, anti-odor, safe for use in chlorinated pools, and has built-in UV protection. A small Hexoskin device fits within a custom pocket on the smart shirt to store data as it is recorded and to transmit it via Bluetooth to your phone or tablet. A USB cable serves as a means of charging the Hexoskin device and can also be used to upload data to your web dashboard.
The Hexoskin products track heart rate (including the ability to view real time ECG), heart rate variability (to measure stress and training fatigue), heart rate recovery, respiration rate (breaths per minute), breathing volume (Liters per minute), estimated VO2 max, max heart rate, activity (including steps, cadence, peak acceleration, and calories; intensity level, steps, and pace are visible in real time), and sleep (including resting heart rate, breathing, and sleep positions). Read more about what Hexoskin measures on their site. Hexoskin's data accuracy has been validated externally by University of Waterloo researchers.
With products like Hexoskin that track breathing rate can also be useful as part of an integrated stress reduction effort. You can use the product to help you focus on deep breathing training and become more aware of when you lapse into shallow or uneven breathing throughout your day.
The Hexoskin app is available for iOS and Android, and syncs via Bluetooth to your mobile device. Data is also viewable via an online web dashboard. Smartwatch users may be happy to hear that Hexoskin works with Pebble, Neptune Pine, oMate, and the Apple Watch. Hexoskin features an Open Data API that allows you to download your raw data, a convenient feature for quantified self enthusiasts or those using the Hexoskin apparel for research purposes.
Hexoskin on Amazon.com
Myontec's Mbody Bike&Run shorts provide data on muscle load, muscle balance, loading distribution, heart rate, cadence, speed, pace, and distance. These smart shorts are geared toward cyclists, duathletes, and triathletes, featuring padding for cycling comfort, UV protection, and flatlock seams.
The Mbody app is available for iOS & Android. An Mbody "MCell Smart" device fits within a custom pocket on the shorts and transfers data to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. A USB cable for charging and data transfer is also included; this allows you to use the device without a smartphone if necessary (in which case, data is viewable via the Suunto Movescount.com site).
Myontec also sells a product called Mbody Pro that is geared toward training centers, researchers, and physicians.
NuMetrex offers heart rate monitoring clothing for men and women that allows you to ditch uncomfortable chest strap heart rate monitors. The women's line includes a heart rate monitoring racer tank top and, via a partnership with Adidas, a heart rate monitoring smart bra that can pair with the Adidas miCoach sports watch. The men's line includes a short sleeve smart shirt and sleeveless smart shirt. NuMetrex smart clothing is machine washable in warm water and should be air dried.
Despite the miCoach branding, all NuMetrex heart rate monitoring clothing is compatible with the following snap-in transmitters: Polar WearLink, NuMetrex transmitter, adidas miCoach, Garmin strap, and Zephyr HxM. Depending on the transmitter you use, it may be able to sync with sports watches via ANT+, mobile devices that are Bluetooth Smart enabled, and more.
OMsignal offers a line of "biometric smartwear" shirts in long sleeve, short sleeve, and sleeveless styles for men. They have plans to release a women's shirt in the future. These shirts track heart rate, breathing rate, breathing volume, breathing balance, heart rate zones, activity intensity, steps, calories, workout effort, heart rate variability, heart rate recovery and breathing recovery. The OMsignal shirt is machine washable and should be air dried.
The OMsignal app is iOS compatible, requiring iOS 8 and above. A small device that is worn within the shirt stores and transfers data to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and can be charged via a microUSB cable. There is no API available as of July 2015, but the company has announced plans to offer one.
The PoloTech Shirt is smart shirt that will be categorized under Ralph Lauren's Polo Sport clothing line. The company's latest bid to enter the smart clothing and wearables arena, PoloTech is a wearable technology smart shirt that will track distance, calories, activity intensity, heart rate, stress rate, among other metrics. Similar to other smart clothing, the PoloTech Shirt will stream recorded data via Bluetooth to your mobile device. The shirt's release date has not been announced.
Sensoria offers a heart rate monitoring sports bra, a men's heart rate monitoring shirt, and smart socks. The socks are Sensoria's latest offering. Machine washable with antimicrobial properties to reduce odor, the Sensoria smart socks have textile sensors woven into the foot bed in three locations. A device worn around the ankle collects the data and transmits it to your smart device via Bluetooth. Together, the socks and anklet track running form, food landing technique, cadence, pace, steps, distance, altitude, and more.
The Sensoria app that accompanies the smart socks is iOS and Android compatible. It provides real-time feedback during your run to help you correct your form, modify your cadence, and to provide encouragement. The app also includes a "virtual closet" of over 7000 shoe models and features that let you track and compare your performance based on the which pair of shoes you're wearing. Although data must be uploaded via the app, once it has been uploaded it can be viewed via a web dashboard. Sensoria also offers a developer kit.
Sensoria Fitness on Amazon.com
Check out the overview on wearables for tracking babies to read more about bio-sensing clothing for infants including socks and onesies that monitor infant vitals.