Smart work clothing enhances working ability to the next level

March 18, 2019 Heli Vainio

Smart work clothing enhances working ability to the next level

Work wear has been developing in the past years, but now it is taking giant leaps as technology can be integrated in clothing to enable simultaneous and real-time monitoring of multiple factors. At the same time, work wear has become desirable as casual wear as well, because they are well fitted, comfortable and trendy. It is actually the same evolution that occurred earlier with jeans; originally they were work wear used by sailors, farm workers and factory workers until they gradually became mainstream fashion all over the globe. Who knows how fashionable today’s smart work wear will eventually be?

In our latest meetup at We+ Helsinki in February we discussed about these themes with the attendees from the companies Foxa, Katex, Dimex, Puro Design, R-Collection and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.

 

Pekka Tuomaala: Smart Clothing 2.0 – The possibilities of smart clothing, equipment and new materials

The Smart Clothing 2.0 project led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd creates business opportunities for Finnish smart clothing and services. The Project Leader and Principal Scientist D.Sc. Pekka Tuomaala presented us the major achievements of the project, which will be finalized in April 2019.

“In our Smart Clothing 2.0 project we had two objectives, the first was to build a smart clothing ecosystem and the second was to create a service concept. We succeeded well in analyzing data and information, but for defining the service concept we would have needed more time and resources. Due to that we are now planning how to execute the following project focusing on evaluating the readiness level of smart service concepts” Pekka describes.

There were five business participants in involved in the project, each developing smart clothes and services for their own company. In the joint workshops they recognized six most promising service concepts:

  • indoor and outdoor locating
  • monitoring of the working environment circumstances
  • movement analytics
  • smart heating of clothing
  • lightning of the clothing
  • alarms

Savox is planning new functionalities for the needs of fire and rescue servics. Reima encourages children to move using smart clothing concepts. Wind Controller develops smart clothing solutions and servies for the needs of wind turbine fitters and maintenance personnel. Suunto’s project includes several service concepts for exercise and leisure activities. Inkron will produce printed electronics solutions for textiles.

Defining responsibilities in the new ecosystems is crucial

“Finland is a perfect country for creating a smart clothing ecosystem. The size of our country is ideal for effective collaboration, and we have the required high level know-how in sensor, telecommunications and textile technology” Pekka summarizes.

During the project, the research team learned that one of the most critical issues in the new ecosystems is the defining of the responsibilities. If there are for example functional features in a work jacket, who is responsible for the functional part; is it the producer or the seller? In fact, is there a need for a totally new role like an “operator”, similarly as in the telecommunication business?

The measuring and monitoring technology is not a restricting factor anymore. Now the challenge is more or less the question how to receive information from the data. And furthermore, how to create competitive service concepts based on the information.

“The traditional garment is like a landline phone and the smart garment is like a smart phone” compares Pekka Tuomaala.

 

Wild ideas about smart work clothing

After Pekka Tuomaala’s compelling presentation we gathered in small groups to discuss what are the most interesting things in smart work clothing and what special needs there are in different industries. Below you can see what we came up with in the brainstorming.

What are the most interesting things in smart work clothing?

  • safety
  • efficiency
  • ergonomics
  • how data will be analyzed
  • how data will be utilized by supervisor or nurse etc. (GDPR rules)

What special needs and features are there in different industries concerning smart clothing?

Heavy industry

  • humidity
  • noise
  • visibility
  • changes of temperature
  • high places
  • narrow places
  • moving vehicles like forklift trucks
  • exposure to chemicals
  • rapid changes in the working conditions
  • working alone
  • heavy equipment
  • night shift

 

Health care

  • three different users: patient, health personnel and laundry personnel
  • patient: comfortable, practical, easy to put on and wear
  • health personnel: monitoring the status of the patient, what data is needed, reliability of the data, easy and fast to put on the patient
  • laundry personnel: easy to wash and care, smart components easy to remove before washing

Service

  • changing working temperatures for example in institutional kitchens
  • logistics and locating: how the customer and the sales personnel can find each other, how they can message to each other
  • navigating: how to find easily things the customer is looking for
  • ergonomics: shelf filling
  • the energy status of the sales personnel

The clothing industry is not a sunset industry, on the contrary. It is going through a significant change from which there is originating a totally new industry. There is a lot of potential and possibilities across the industry and in the interfaces with other industries. In Finland we need  more clothing manufacturers and service providers to create new products and service concepts, and to commercialize them both in the domestic and the global market.

 

 

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