One of Japan’s top mobile carriers NTT Docomo is partnering with leading edge clothing materials developer Toray (makers of odorless underwear, yes it’s true) to put this new technology in “smart clothing” – Hitoe, literally “one layer” in Japanese, is a kind of new material that can double as health sensors for your body. The material contains nanofibers from Toray and coated in a transmittable layer, and is not able to link up with smartphone apps.
That is where the partnership with Docomo becomes very valuable – if connected to the current health apps that Docomo already has on their smartphones, the new “smart clothing” can act as electrodes, measuring the wearer’s heartbeat and even offering metrics and visuals akin to what one sees out of a cardiogram. So the plan is now to peddle these high-tech clothing to Docomo’s millions of smartphone users as a kind of soft hardware – it is still clothing, mind you – to partner with their gadgets. It took a while for “wearable” gadgets to become ergonomic, but judging from this video, the technology has come a long way to becoming just that – articles of clothing that you wouldn’t mind wearing, and that the user wouldn’t have to notice any gadgetry sticking on tackily to the clothes they wear.
The project of Docomo and Toray would obviously have a slant toward sportswear – that is understandable, as runners and athletes would love to have that kind of sensor data available to them. But looking at Hitoe’s launch announcement, it seems that it’s not all sports clothing – the line of products also include sleepwear, casual wear, and even a little hat. According to Hitoe, the sensors on the clothes will survive the washing machine, with the material impressively flexible and lightweight. Who knows, we might just get to try some of these soon.