The Transcend snow goggles from Recon Instruments feature a head mounted GPS display

The Transcend snow goggles from Recon Instruments feature a head mounted GPS display

The use of smart fabrics will be pushed forward by the dramatic rise in the use of smart phones and what can now be done with them, a new report says, offering new opportunities for added-value developments.

The spread of the smart phone is set to boost an increase in the availability of sensing and monitoring applications, as well as fashion and entertainment applications, says the research from Textiles Intelligence.

In addition, Bluetooth low energy technology is poised to revolutionise the market for wearable devices, especially for sports and health monitoring.

One pioneer in this field is Polar Electro, whose coded Bluetooth WearLink heart rate belt sensor was among the first of its kind to include support for Bluetooth wireless technology when it was introduced in 2009. The belt links to a wristwatch-style monitor which displays the user's heart rate in real time.

A breakthrough came in 2010 when Polar Electro teamed up with Nike to introduce the Polar WearLink+. This works with the Nike+ SportBand and the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit, enabling users to run and train while monitoring their heart rates.

In apparel, the commercial success of the Adidas miCoach Pacer and Zone will set the pace for further developments in fully-formed smart garments for performance sports. Adidas has recently made available its heart rate sensing apparel bras, branded Supernova, and the Cardio Shirt, which can now work with the miCoach Pacer.

It is estimated that by 2016 there will be around 300m wireless sensor-based gadgets for wearing on the body in the fields of healthcare and sports management as well as other activities in the fields of media, automotive, security and the home.

Many companies and other organisations are adopting smart solutions in the sports and entertainment fields in order to promote fan loyalty and brand commitment by providing opportunities for online and real-time interaction via social media sites, such as Facebook, and smart phone apps.

Nike has established a running community portal on Nikeplus.com, where users can monitor their sports performance. By 2014 Nike aims to have 10m people around the world hooked up to its Nikeplus.com running community portal via sensors in their clothing, footwear, wristwatches and other accessories.

Further examples of integrated electronic innovations in the performance apparel sector include the data4vision running cap, which has a panel in the brim displaying the wearer's heart rate, distance covered, pace and running speed. All of these indicators can be viewed by the wearer while running.

In a similar vein, the appropriately named company Humotion is offering an affordable wearable sports monitoring system called the Achillex jump'n'run. Using the system, the wearer's movements are monitored by a waist belt and analysed using fully automated tools which simplify the measuring process.

In another development, Recon Instruments, a company based in Canada, has achieved remarkable success with a set of snow sports goggles which it calls Transcend. This features a head mounted display on which GPS (global positioning system) data can be viewed in real time.

The use of integrated electronics in performance apparel opens up enormous development potential. Ultimately, however, the added value will come largely from new markets for software rather than the hardware itself.

Click here for more details on the report 'Fast track: how apparel is recording track times, distances, calories, location and pictures,' published by Textiles Intelligence in Performance Apparel Markets.