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How Smart Is Smart Fabric?

Oct 20, 2021

Ever Wonder How Fast You Can Run …

… throw a baseball, or swim a lap in a swimming pool? Or how many steps you take in a day? Or how fast your heart beats when you’re resting versus when you’re doing a physical activity? These are all really interesting pieces of information that help you learn more about your body. Over the last decade, health tracking devices, such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch, have made it easy to track daily physical movements and set health goals. Strap the watch-like device onto your wrist and you’re off to the “health” races! For professional athletes, tracking how fast they can throw, swim, run, and jump can give them a competitive advantage. This data helps them train and work on specific areas that might need improving. Similar to how everyday people might wear a watch or other device to keep track of how many steps they’re walking, athletes may use devices to track their movements. Pitchers, for example, use radar guns to measure how fast they can throw. Runners use stopwatches or timers to measure how quickly they can run a specific distance, like the hundred meter dash. Technologies for measuring movement continue to advance because, well, it’s important for athletes to know what they can do and how they can improve. That’s why it’s no surprise that sports and technology go hand in hand. A number of technology companies are now making innovative products specifically for athletes. Want to improve your skiing? How about a smart boot that helps measure a skier’s techniques as they’re swishing down the mountain? Or a device that measures their hydration levels so they can drink the optimal amount of liquids in order to be at their peak performance levels? Or a device that not only monitors how many breaths they take, but also when they cough or wheeze? Companies are also producing clothing specifically for athletes where technology is directly sewn into the fabric. No, it’s not like an Iron Man suit … or is it? One company is making a smart fabric where innovative circuit boards meet materials such as spandex and nylon, which are often used to make sportswear. George Sun, the founder of Nextiles, the company behind this innovative “smart thread technology,” believes that “if it can be sewn, it can be smart”—an idea that will revolutionize the fabric industry. Athletes wearing these smart fabrics will be able to learn more about things like how much pressure they put on their bodies, the force behind a movement, and other interesting information that will help improve their overall performance. Talk about thinking outside the box! It looks like fabric can do a whole lot more than just cover our bodies.

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