TT: How are consumers expected to change their behaviour once smart clothing becomes a part of life?
At Sensoria, our vision is 'The Garment is the Computer' which means that the garment itself should replace the wearable device. We aim to introduce technology with meaningful impact through natural and intuitive execution - basically, we ensure our products fit seamlessly into our customers' lives, so they do not even have to think about it. Each morning, people wake up and get dressed, putting on socks and shoes - we are inserting something natural. When you put your smart sock on, which are infused with textile sensors that are not even visible, they collect data as your own 'personal computer'. Then, that data is directly transmitted to your phone, computer or smartwatch.
TT: What kind of response are you getting for your smart garments?
The initial response to our Smart Socks was a bit of scepticism; however, after the plethora of awards and notable media mentions that we received, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We estimate that there are over 120 million runners worldwide and research shows that between 65-85 per cent of those runners get injured at least once per year. We wanted to create a solution that could help runners improve their form and reduce the occurrence of such injuries. Once consumers realised that sensors embedded into the plantar area of the sock could accurately produce metrics attributed to running form, they were more likely to try and adopt the product.
TT: How has the wearable market evolved?
Consumers are becoming increasingly more aware and adoption is becoming more frequent. In terms of the innovation adoption curve, the market has progressed from innovators and early adopters to more mainstream early and late majority, which means that well over 50 per cent of the population has adopted the wearables market. Earlier this year, a Gartner press release predicted that worldwide wearable device sales would grow 18 per cent in 2016. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 274.6 million wearable electronic devices will be sold worldwide in 2016, an increase of 18.4 per cent from 232 million units in 2015.
One of the key areas transforming the wearables sector is healthcare. Overall, health insurers are well placed to take advantage of the potentially large benefits from the increasing use of wearable technology among their customers. This is particularly true if they are willing to offer enticing discounts on premiums and are able to earn the trust of policyholders with regards to their data. The companies that find a way to create affordable products that offer greater value for both users and their healthcare partners will be the best served. In addition, there is opportunity in exploring the subsidisation of health care wearable devices.
TT: When was Sensoria founded and what has been its growth story?
The company was founded and incorporated in 2011 when the co-founders were working from their garage(s). 2013 was Sensoria's break out year with the launch of a very successful Indiegogo campaign that allowed production, manufacturing and bringing the smart sock to market. We were originally focused on the running market. Next, we replicated the embedded sensors within the garment to develop our collection of smart upper garments for all fitness enthusiasts. Since then, we have also entered in the healthcare market with the release of Sensoria Walk which was developed for the ageing population, people with gait impairments, limited mobility, as well as those going through rehabilitation.
TT: How has the sales of your smart garments been in the last six months? What are your sales expectations for these products for the next one year?
Sales of smart garments continue to increase. As we continue to innovate and bring more differentiated products to the market place, we expect sales to continue to increase; hopefully in line with the projections of the wearables marketplace.
TT: Has there been a change in people's perception towards technologically advanced garments?
Yes, as more players enter the market, more competition ensues and companies are faced with creating differentiation and providing more inherent value to their customers. This market is primarily driven by consumer preference for sophisticated gadgets, increasing growth prospects of next-generation displays and integrated consumer wearable devices, increasing popularity of wearable fitness and medical devices, and growing popularity of Internet of Things.
TT: What are the challenges that you faced while developing these smart garments? How did you overcome these challenges?
Initially, in the creation of our smart socks, we were unable to find the exact sensors that we needed in the marketplace. Therefore, we created our own proprietary textile sensors, which took longer than anticipated and cost us a lot of resources. However, the effort was well worth it to deliver the best product possible to the marketplace in terms of accuracy, wear ability, functionality, etc.
TT: If I were to ask you to do some trend forecasting, what revolutionary changes do you expect in the clothes that we wear in the next decade?
At CES in 2016, we showcased our vision of a fully instrumented athlete 2020 where literally there are multiple sensors embedded in each article of clothing, footwear, eyewear, etc. measuring different but applicable metrics depending upon where the sensors were placed and what they were designed to provide in terms of real-time feedback to the user.
TT: What are your future plans for the company?
We are constantly innovating and discovering new verticals and new opportunities within research, academia, military, health care, as well as fitness and wellness. We will continue to evaluate those market opportunities, their growth potential and competitive landscape to determine the best course of action. We are and will continue to remain a leading developer of smart garments and Internet of Everything (IoE) wearable solutions that improve people's lives.
TT: You currently have smart T-shirts, sports bras and socks in your portfolio. Are you planning to introduce any more products?
With the introduction of Sensoria Core, our revolutionary new technology platform, this embeddable technology will accelerate the integration of a broad spectrum of sensors with footwear and apparel products. We are looking for strategic partners with whom we can create customised solutions that deliver the metrics that are most important to their customers.
TT: How many washes would a piece of smart clothing last? Would there be any constraints on a tumble dry and squeeze?
Our Sensoria smart socks are tested for up to 60 washes. We recommend not using a drying machine, but rather laying them flat to air dry. For our smart upper garments, they wash as any other major brand garment would wash, and we recommend the same drying instructions. We do not recommend tumble drying or squeezing.
TT: After IoT, what next?
At Sensoria, we are transitioning from the Internet of Things (IoT) to the Internet of Me (IoMe). We believe that wearable technology will become the next ultra-personal wearable computer. In terms of IoT, there are actually three pillars that exist today: (1) the industrial IoT - think the automobile industry (2) the home IoT-think NEST thermometers, Smart refrigerator, etc. and (3) IoMe - which is where wearable technology, not just in fitness, but in healthcare and other industries play. The third pillar is substantially larger than the first two combined.
TT: What is the budget allocated for R&D?
We are currently heavily invested in R&D and we will continue on this trajectory.
TT: By what percentage is the cost of clothing expected to go up in smart clothing?
This will depend on what innovations and differentiations companies are able to deliver to the marketplace. This will also be dependent upon the value that these products deliver, not just perceived value, but actual value. If a consumer is able to receive real-time biometric data that can either improve performance, reduce injury, mitigate disease progression or all of the above, they will be more likely to invest in the technology. As referenced previously, the innovation adoption curve has a lot to do with what a person is willing to pay. Innovators and early adopters are typically willing to spend more money to be able to have the latest gadget. Early and late majority will want the product to be tested and validated in the marketplace, will want all the idiosyncrasies to be resolved and will be willing to wait for a drop in price prior to purchasing.