Guardian / April 21 2015

Get yourself connected: is the internet of things the future of fashion?
Spider dress
“The spider dress is an art piece,” says Ildeniz. “We opened up our R&D shops with her and said, ‘Anouk, what would you like to do?’” And that is the dress that she came up with. It is pretty remarkable, because not only does it use Edison, which is a platform that we have formed to make [the] internet of things a reality, but she put sensors on it. She created a dress that was aesthetic and she made it in a way that’s … funky functional.”
Ildeniz says she was joking with a friend about getting on a crowded metro line with a dress that starts blinking red. “I don’t know if I would want that, but it’s basically showing how the wearer is interacting with the rest of the world and showing her own sensations and emotions to everybody.” Wearing her heart on her sleeve, quite literally.
What’s next: The more sensors out there, the more dresses such as Intel’s Spider will have to interact with. “When we have a genuine sensor-led environment and our clothes can communicate with each other, with stores, with events, we will open up a world of possibilities that we have yet to explore or even understand what that could mean,” Drinkwater says. “Connected clothing will allow us to communicate in a completely new way … the possibilities are incredibly exciting.” But what happens next for connected fashion depends on how tech evolves. Ildeniz points out that sensors and processing power could be crammed almost entirely on a phone, and interact with connected devices as a hub. Or, that power could be distributed across the body. “Whether it’s a necklace or a watch or an earring or, you know your pants or your bra for that matter, it will be distributed,” she says.
“The research is still dancing between the two extremes,” she says, but the one thing that’s certain is the world will be full of connected sensors. It’s merely a matter of deciding how to use them – to count how many steps we’ve taken in a day, or to show off our emotional state to those around us with an interactive t-shirt.
Another hurdle is making the electronics small enough, and Intel has one answer in the form of Curie, a button-sized system-on-a-chip, which can read sensors, analyse the information and transfer it over Bluetooth.
There are other challenges, notably washing clothing, with Ildeniz pointing out that most smart fitness clothing uses a “puck” that can be removed to wash them. CuteCircuit’s Rosella points out that her firm’s designs may be technologically advanced, but “we really do intend that people wear them”.
She says the ready-to-wear line can be washed at 30 degrees with standard detergents, though more delicate fabrics should be dry cleaned.
“We undertook two years of wash tests to be able to bring a fashionable, wearable technology product to market that can be used as normal fashion, but has the added value of looking beautiful and creating magical interactivity,” she says. So the only excuse for not wearing an interactive, Tweeting t-shirt is it’s at the bottom of the washing pile.

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