The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by advanced materials and technology, and growing importance of technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things (IoT). In the last three years alone, there have been over 32,000 patents filed and granted in the apparel industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial intelligence in Apparel: Wearable computers

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 13,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the consumer industry, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Wearable computers is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence 

A wearable computer is a small gadget that can be worn as an accessory and is capable of processing as well as storing data. Wearable computers are designed in a way that they are ergonomic, easy to access, and can improve day-to-day tasks by making information quickly available to the wearer. 

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established apparel companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of wearable computers. 

Key players in wearable computers – a disruptive innovation in the apparel industry    

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

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

Patent volumes related to wearable computers

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NIKE 281 Unlock company profile
Levi Strauss & Co 58 Unlock company profile
Gunze 30 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 26 Unlock company profile
Apple 26 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 15 Unlock company profile
Microsoft 11 Unlock company profile
Immersion 10 Unlock company profile
Shenzhen Royole Technologies 9 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 5 Unlock company profile
HP 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

The leading players in terms of patents filed in the wearable computers space are NIKE, Levi Strauss, Gunze, Apple, Sony, Alphabet, and Microsoft. In October 2022, Google launched its first smartwatch, Pixel Watch. It is a high-priced smartwatch.  

In terms of application diversity in the wearable computer space, NIKE leads, followed by SAMSUNG, Immersion, Sony, and Levi Strauss. 

The top players in this space in terms of geographic reach are NIKE, Sony, SAMSUNG, HP, and Apple

As technology progresses and more wearable devices are being invented, wearables are finding increasingly diverse applications in various fields from tracking physical activities to tracking health vitals. 

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

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.