Apple Inc‘s patent application “Smart Garment” released on Sept. 11, 2008 strongly indicates it’s interested into the development of wearable electronic / smart clothing.
Apple’s popular iPod range has actually helped to kick start the wearable electronic business by providing a kind of standardized interface platform with the iPod range. This standardized platform together with a large consumer base allows the creation of add-on products that benefit from this large consumer base as potential customers of add-on products.
Made for iPod accessories are a huge business and the first wearable electronic products are largely relying on the Made for iPod platform.
With the ‘Smart Garment’ patent application Apple indicates smart garments might be the next big opportunity to make business and wants to claim a part of it as Apple has done by introducing the ‘Made for iPod’ license fee for current iPod ready products.
The patent relates to ‘A sensor authenticated to a garment transfers information, either wirelessly or wired, to an external data processing device. Such information includes location information, physiometric data of the individual wearing the garment, garment performance and wear data (when the garment is an athletic shoe, for example). The external data processing device can be portable digital media players that are, in turn, in wireless communication with a server computer or other wireless devices.’
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is another area that gets attention as the patent application suggests to incorporate RFID tags into future smart garments to allow it to be pairs with the smart system and at the same time ‘monitor’ if the users to not hack their future wardrobe.
According to the text in the patent application, such shoe-hacking does already occur: “Unfortunately, however, it is becoming more commonly practiced to place the sensor at locations on a garment (shoes, for example) that are not specifically designed to physically accommodate the sensor and/or calibrated to accurately reflect data supplied to the wrist device.”
Further down in the text it reads: “However, some people have taken it upon themselves to remove the sensor from the special pocket of the Nike+ shoe and place it at inappropriate locations (shoelaces, for example) or place it on non-Nike+ model shoes. Therefore, what is desired is a method of electronically pairing a sensor and an authorized garment.”
This makes it very clear: Apple does not want anyone to ‘mess around’ with their system and you have to stick to the wardrobe Apple approves (jeans, turtleneck shirt and Nike New Balance shoes).
Doom saying beside – I like the idea to pair the future wardrobe like we do now with all the gadgets we own. Clothing becomes part of our digital life before we know it. What sound crazy today might be an everyday item in just a few years time. Examples of such rapid development and adoption are many around. If something is cool or useful or both it’s going to become big quickly.
I am not expecting to see during the next MacWorld coming January the first iShirts or iSneakers announced by Steve Jobs as ‘one more thing’ but Apple applying for a Smart Garment patent indicates an interest into smart clothing from the most creative company on the planet.
Such interest adds more weight, more energy behind our beloved topic of a wearable electronic enabled interactive fashion future.