TOKYO >> Wearable technology is often associated with watches and glasses, but with the development of flexible, stretchable sensors, there has been an increase of wearables in clothing.
The sophistication in fabrics has been especially remarkable, leading to the development of a variety of smart textiles with sensory functions.
Kyoto-based Mitsufuji Corp.’s hamon is a shirt made of silver- plated fibers that conduct electricity. By acquiring and analyzing biometric information such as heart rate, the shirt can detect health risks and send information to a smartphone.
In May last year, the Kyoto prefectural government adopted hamon to manage changes in the physical condition of overnight patients with COVID-19 and to prevent secondary infections among staff such as nurses.
Hamon also is being used to manage the physical condition of workers at construction sites who toil under the hot sun. The health data can be monitored remotely by site supervisors, which could avert heat-related incidents.
Kobe-based Asics and Tokyo- based startup Orphe have developed Evoride Orphe shoes that offer advice on proper form while the wearer is running.
Sensors built into the cushioned area of the shoe acquire data such as stride length and ankle angle. The data is immediately analyzed by a smartphone app, which provides personalized information for the user. It also displays tips on improving running technique.
In a way, the shoes become a personal trainer.
Those who wrangle with insomnia can wear the e-skin Sleep Tshirt to bed. The shirt, created by startup Xenoma, provides sleep diagnosis.
A patch of fabric embedded with flexible electronic circuits is sewn into a pocket and comes with a small electronic device affixed in the pocket. The device can measure heartbeat, body movements and temperature, and the readings are analyzed using a dedicated smartphone app.
Sleep quality is evaluated and the app offers advice on improving the score.
Fashion retailer Urban Research Co. is selling pajamas that use the same device, and the clothing is popular among health-conscious customers in their 30s and 40s.
Japan’s smart textile market in 2020 was expected to grow 72% from the 2019 level to a $4.3 million industry; in 2030, growth is expected to be 47 times the 2020 level and generate nearly $200 million, according to the Yano Research Institute.