Smart textiles and clothing: opportunities for providing comfort, functionality and insight into consumer behaviour and lifestyles

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Significant developments have been made in the commercialisation of wearable technologies such as fitness trackers and smart watches, and such developments have spurred innovation in smart textiles and clothing and the creation of products for use in a wide range of applications. In fact, such is the success of these efforts that the market for smart textiles and clothing is attracting competition from a number of large corporations as well as smaller start-ups.


Many advances have been made in the development of smart textile and clothing products for sports and fitness applications. However, there is potential for using smart textiles and clothing to transform patient care and to improve safety and efficiency in the workplace.

Smart textiles and clothing also provide a means of conveniently gathering large amounts of data about consumers—including biometric data, and data relating to movement and temperature. Such data provide brands and retailers with invaluable insight into the lifestyles of consumers and the ways in which products are used after the point of sale. The gathering of such data can also be of benefit to consumers, and investigations are being made into ways in which consumers can take ownership of their data in order to sell them to third parties in exchange for rewards.

However, the development and manufacture of smart textile and clothing products is far from straightforward, and some technical issues have yet to be addressed. One key challenge facing the industry is the complexity of the manufacture of smart textile and clothing products—which typically comprise a large number of different materials and components. In order to overcome this challenge, some companies are exploring the integration of sensors and electrical components into conventional trims.

Another issue is a need for small and extremely efficient power sources for use in conjunction with smart textiles and clothing. However, to address this issue much research is being conducted into new materials such as graphene.