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Sports Equipment Technology

Ralph Lauren Provides Connectivity & Fashion with OMsignal Backing

August 25, 2014


Wearable technology has made a lot of advancements since its earliest days, and with those advancements is coming some exciting new opportunities in the form factor side as well. Granted, the wrist is still considered prime real estate when it comes to wearables, but even as smart glasses started to make an appearance, the rest of the body was also receiving due consideration. When the U.S. Open fires up in earnest this week, so too will a new advance in wearable tech from no less than Ralph Lauren, backed up by smart clothing maker OMsignal.

Most of the development is said to be OMsignal's in design, offering up a shirt lined with conductive thread and an external electronics pack that can be removed as needed. Ralph Lauren, meanwhile, brought in a little of that extra Ralph Lauren style to the shirts, given same that extra edge of wearability. Now, the shirts not only are capable of measuring and broadcasting vital signs to any of a variety of devices, but the shirts also look sharp with that Ralph Lauren edge.

So why a partnership between OMsignal and Ralph Lauren? The motivation behind this arrangement might best be summed up by David Lauren, son of Ralph Lauren and current executive vice president for advertising, marketing and corporate communications. Lauren said “Everyone is exploring wearable tech watches and headbands and looking at cool sneakers. We skipped to what we thought was new, which is apparel. We live in our clothes.”

While smart apparel isn't exactly new, it's certainly not been getting near the kind of support with new releases that smartwatches and fitness trackers have. Even smart glasses have been getting more play than smart apparel, and that's been kind of an interesting idea. Of course, smartwatches get first dibs on a lot of wearable tech time because such devices not only carry well but also get quick access to both hands and eyes. However, there are clear possibilities for the rest of the device market that aren't so readily considered, and we have video about these kinds of possibilities and more at this link.

We look at the smartwatch as a display mechanism for a smartphone or the like, and with good reason; the smartwatch can be quickly looked at as needed, and just as quickly interacted with. Buttons can be easily pressed, touchscreens easily swiped and so on just by cocking one's arm and bringing the watch into the appropriate position for the other, usually dominant, hand to interact with the device. But consider for a moment the average T-shirt. A T-shirt has a lot more real estate to work with than even a standard smartphone; it might take 10 or 12 smartphones to completely cover one side of a shirt, in some cases. So what if all that ground was put to use, lined with processors that connected outward, an antenna built into a shoulder or a sleeve, and connected to, again, a wrist display. Essentially, a user might be wearing a complete, multi-core computer. This is just one possibility, of course, and may not work in the execution. Still, Ralph Lauren and OMsignal are showing us here just what can be done on the strength of an unusual form factor.

Only time will tell just where it goes from here, but with some new measures being considered, we could be looking at a future of wearable tech where our clothes connect with monitors, and our computers go where ever we don't go naked.

Edited by Maurice Nagle