The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by innovative manufacturing practices, digitalization, and cost efficiency, and growing importance of technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, augmented reality, and big data. In the last three years alone, there have been over 57,000 patents filed and granted in the apparel industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial intelligence in apparel: smart fabricsBuy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 36,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the apparel industry, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Smart fabrics are a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Smart fabrics refer to materials integrated with electronic components, sensors, and responsive devices capable of detecting and adapting to environmental changes, monitoring health metrics, and enhancing wearer comfort. These fabrics have the capacity to bring about a revolutionary shift not only in the fashion industry, but also across sectors such as healthcare, sports, and military.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established apparel companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart fabrics.

Key players in smart fabrics – a disruptive innovation in the apparel industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to smart fabrics

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Life 76 Unlock Company Profile
Prevayl 37 Unlock Company Profile
ROKA Sports 32 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 31 Unlock Company Profile
adidas 27 Unlock Company Profile
Asahi Kasei 26 Unlock Company Profile
Cipher Skin 19 Unlock Company Profile
Seiko Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Medibotics 11 Unlock Company Profile
BioSerenity 10 Unlock Company Profile
Amer Sports 9 Unlock Company Profile
DuPont de Nemours 8 Unlock Company Profile
Koninklijke Philips 6 Unlock Company Profile
OMSignal 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sensiia 5 Unlock Company Profile
B.S.G 4 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 4 Unlock Company Profile
Nurvv 3 Unlock Company Profile
Impact Tech Labs 3 Unlock Company Profile
ComfTech 2 Unlock Company Profile
Regina Miracle International (Group) 2 Unlock Company Profile
Hexonia 1 Unlock Company Profile
Gree Electric Appliances 1 Unlock Company Profile
Xiaomi 1 Unlock Company Profile
Catapult Group International 1 Unlock Company Profile
StretchSense 1 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 1 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Chemical 1 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 1 Unlock Company Profile
Zhen Ding Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Life is one of the leading patent filers in smart fabrics. Some other key patent filers in the space include Prevayl and ROKA Sports. adidas, yet another key patent filer in the space, collaborated with Google and Electronic Arts to incorporate web connectivity and sensors to fabrics, creating smart clothing for a connected experience.

In terms of application diversity,  OMSignal leads the pack, while Honeywell International and NIKE stood in the second and third positions, respectively.

By geographic reach, ROKA Sports held the top position, followed by NIKE and adidas.

The ability of smart fabrics to seamlessly integrate technology into fashion highlights their transformative impact, driving innovation and enhancing customer satisfaction.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the apparel industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Retail and Apparel.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.