Zuzance is equipping clothing with a memory as a means to control electronic devices remotely using NFC technology.
The wearable technology market has been getting into full swing recently, with many innovative products on the market. In the health sector there is OMSignal, which designs ‘smart’ bio-sensing apparel, and there was a large range of products in this field on show at last year’s Futuro Textiles exhibition in Paris. Meanwhile US firm Zuzance started out from the realisation that, although there are many ‘wearable devices’, none of them are currently easy to wear or use, or indeed all that affordable. Looking to find a solution to these problems, the Zuzance developers came up with the idea of embedding Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into hooded sweaters, thus creating ‘smart’ clothing which gives the wearer control over selected equipment with the aid of a smartphone. The use of equipment using NFC systems is in fact expanding rapidly. In a recent report Deloitte stated that there were already around 300 million NFC-enabled smartphones in circulation in 2013.
An intuitive system
The Zuzance-designed process is quite straightforward. Four NFC tags are placed in the sleeves and pockets of the ‘hoodie’ and can then be configured with third party smartphone applications to provide a range of functionality. NFC technology, which has become very popular for such processes as contactless payments, enables wearers of Zuzance clothing to control their electronic equipment remotely simply by passing their smartphones over the embedded NFC tags. You could for example turn on your home WiFi system by swiping your phone across your left sleeve, or change a music track by shifting your phone from one pocket to another. All you have to do is to activate the application which corresponds to the action you wish to perform. In fact there are many mobile apps available today that are compatible with the NFC tags, and you therefore have a wide range of options for tailoring your hoodie to suit your particular needs. You can change the combinations and functionality of each sleeve and pocket at any time depending on the app you are using.
A variety of possible combinations
Zuzance’s NFC-enabled clothing is still at the prototype stage and the startup is now running a funding campaign on Kickstarter to help get the product up and running and on to the market. Meanwhile the developers are still working to improve the concept. In fact Zuzance aims to create a range of clothing incorporating different kinds of intuitive technology, with prices starting at $50. The price is likely to come down if the company reaches its Kickstarter funding goal of $5,000, which would enable it to buy higher-end equipment and reduce the cost of production. Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2014 report forecasts that wearable devices such as smart glasses, fitness bands and watches are set to generate total revenue of $3 billion in 2014. At the moment there are no predictions for connected clothing, which has not yet attained mass market status, but sector experts have noticed a strong general trend towards a more human relationship with technology.