Skiin: Is Clothing The Future of Smart Wearables?

We’re well accustomed, by now, to wearables that monitor everything from our steps to our heartbeats to our blood alcohol levels. They come in a variety of formats. Wristwatches. Fitness bands. Rings. Glasses. Costume jewellery-esque necklaces. Necklaces that could pass for fine jewellery. As devices get smarter, they also tend to get smaller. Commonly pointed to as one of the most prime examples of this trend was the size and power of early NASA computers, those giant machines that helped send the first men to the moon; by the 1980s, the same amount of computing power could be found in basic calculators.

Myant, a Toronto-based technology company, is taking things in a slightly different direction — sort of. Its wearables may be bigger than a watch or a ring, but the focus here is more all-encompassing, and that’s because Myant’s latest project seeks to cover and monitor the whole body. SKIIN, as it has been effectively named, is the world’s first Textile Computing™ platform, meaning items of clothing (yes, even underwear) that are incredibly smart.

Myant was founded by Tony Chahine, a big player in the development of innovative battery technology in the 1990s. (Chahine is the founder of Battery Plus, which grew into a national chain with over 100 stores.) With a keen eye on the changing world and a belief that technology should be accessible, invisible, and that it should function to improve people’s lives, he started looking to textiles and their broad potential as a smart platform. Chahine began meeting with suppliers in yarn and textiles and discovered a lack of understanding of the potential of apparel in the smart sector. And so he founded Myant, a company that today employs over 80 people. Working with a team of engineers, technicians, designers, and scientists, Chahine has built Myant into a force with both local and international partnership. At home, this includes UHN Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, the University of Toronto, and Ryerson University; internationally, we’re talking heavyweights like the cutting-edge Mayo Clinic and Stoll A.G., & Carlisle Interconnect Technologies. The company even teases that its ongoing research and development in biosensors and actuators will one day assist in space exploration.

But in the present, here on Earth, how exactly is this technology being put to use? Well, upcoming offerings from the company will include smart underwear, a blood pressure shirt, heated base layers, and a knee brace. SKIIN’s store currently only sells an 8-pack of men’s smart underwear, though it is currently out of stock in these early phases.

Each of these products will be specifically engineered for remote diagnostics. The underwear — the product that has, as one would probably expect, earned SKIIN the most media attention — is capable of monitoring ECG, HRV, breathing patterns, stress levels, sleep quality, steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, and stationary time.

The blood pressure shirt functions much like a regular blood pressure monitor — but without the hassle of clunky devices. A simple tightening of the cuff, promises the company, does the trick.

SKIIN’s heated base layers will include long-sleeved undershirts and leggings that are capable of adapting to the body’s needs and applying an optimal amount of heat. We can see this being a game changer for cold-weather work especially; scientists, photographers, winter sport athletes, and manual labourers working in cold climates, for instance, will likely be the ideal market for this particular product.

The knee brace is specifically targeted towards those with acute or chronic knee pain and stands as the world’s first remote therapy knee brace to combine electric stimulation and heat therapy for a focused, accessible approach to pain management.

There’s a wealth of untapped potential for apparels in the health and wellness sector, but the company has further visions for its products’ uses — ones that many have deemed unnecessary, a prime example of cool-but-unnecessary advancements in technology. Myant ultimately, according to its website, is working towards smart clothing that veers beyond health utility and strays into the world of automation. Ever dreamed of controlling your smart home via…your underwear? Ever fostered visions of commanding environmental conditions like lighting, temperature, and even appliances, via your undergarments? It sounds like the stuff of the far and distant future, and the actual need for such a function perhaps remains to be seen. In the meantime, we’re excited about yet another innovative trend in apparel alongside trends like art-meets-science smart clothing or technology that shakes up the design and production process.

SKIIN has the potential to change the lives of many, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the company’s innovative offerings once they go to market.


Images via SKIIN.