The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by rise in e-commerce, data analytics, demand for convenience, and the growing importance of technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation. 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 Innovation in apparel: e-textiles. Buy the report here.
However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.
Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.
20+ innovations will shape the apparel industry
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the apparel industry using innovation intensity models built on over 36,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Within the emerging innovation stage, insulated composite fabrics, and reflective fabrics are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. e-textiles, personalized lookbooks, and AR-assisted measurements are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are functional undergarments and breathable fabrics, which are now well established in the industry.
Innovation S-curve for the apparel industry
Electronic textiles (e-textiles) are a key innovation area in apparel
Electronic textiles, or e-textiles, are fabrics that have electronic components such as sensors embedded into them for functions like displays, or interactive devices. e-textile manufacturing involves a combination of textile manufacturing techniques and electronic assembly methods and can serve as wearable technology, interactive fashion, safety gear, or even as a healthcare device.
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 e-textiles.
Key players in e-textiles – 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 e-textiles
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Sanko is one of the leading patent filers in e-textiles. Some other key patent filers in the space include Apple and Alphabet. Sensoria, another innovator in e-textiles, offers a broad array of smart garments for active customers, that are designed to monitor heart rate, detect cadence, and assess impact forces during fitness activities.
In terms of application diversity, Sensoria leads the pack, while Alphabet and KMD Brands stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Sanko held the top position, followed by DuPont, and Bekaert.
e-textiles have a wide range of applications in the apparel sector with garments that can monitor several aspects of the wearer’s health, enabling quick and effective care.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the apparel industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Apparel.