Smart Interactive Garments may be closer to Market than we think and Google may have the Jump on Apple
The wearables market will soon go from consisting of gadgets like the Apple Watch and bands to a much wider category that includes smart clothing. In 2014 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Could Apple be Eying Smart Clothing as the Next Big Thing?" Considering that Patently Apple also covers key non-Apple patents in our Patently Mobile blog, it's easier to recognize new emerging trends such as foldable smartphones, next-gen touch surfaces or smart clothing. A year ago we covered this topic in a report titled "Microsoft, Apple and Google Aim to Extend Touch Technologies to a World of new Devices and Applications."
This year Apple's IP has noticeably picked up steam in the area of smart fabrics. It was evident that Apple was ramping up their research in the first half of 2017 with a couple of patents (one and two) and then stepped it up further in the second half of the year with three major patents specifically aimed at smart clothing. They were very detailed.
In fact I think the last three patents sounded an alarm bell for trend watchers and I think that Apple understood that Google was now miles ahead of them in the emerging smart clothing market.
This week the U.S. Patent Office published another major Google patent on the topic of smart fabric, and more importantly, interactive garments as one of their patent figures presents below.
While it only looks like a patent pending idea at the moment, the fact is that the patent is actually far behind their actual work in this area. Google's Project Jacquard actually shows how the patent is merely reflecting what they've already accomplished by working with leading garment mills overseas that want to enter the new emerging market of smart fabrics.
The video below realistically presents this emerging technology smartly to help us understand that Google has a chance to make a giant leap forward and ahead of their competition. The patent published this week by the U.S. Patent Office is a mere shadow of the larger project. It's a project that stemmed from Google's Advanced Technology and Projects Group.
Of course no one knows what secret projects that Jonathan Ive and his curious team of designers and engineers are working on at any given time. Apple's smart garments projects may be just as advanced or more than Google's.
However, until that information breaks out in a major report or credible rumor, we have to rely on what's currently available to us to view today, and Google's Project Jacquard is apparently miles ahead of where Apple is, on record.
In September IDC's worldwide wearables market report was published showing smart clothing is likely to jump from 2.8% of wearables to 5.1% by 2021.
Yet all it'll take is one killer app and the wearables market in context with smart clothing could explode far beyond the tiny percentage that IDC is forecasting. The smart clothing market could explode just as quickly as Apple's revolutionary iPhone did in 2007.
If anything I've learned over the last few hours working on this and the full Google patent report is that the work being done on the smart clothing front is far ahead of where I thought it was and because of that, I've just created a new patent category archive called "Wearables, Smart Fabrics & Clothing" that I'll keep on top of going forward.
It's really an exciting time in technology with Augmented and Virtual Reality, smartglasses, smart clothing, new display technologies and next-gen cameras like the one on the iPhone X exploding on the market and the horizon.
Today we see that smart fabrics and interactive clothing are closer to market than most of have thought and for sure Apple and Google will be some of the top companies delivering products on this front over the coming years.
I realize that Apple's CEO couldn't care less about being first at anything. For Apple it's about getting it right. Though Apple's big move into AR is likely to catapult their iOS platform as the leader on that front, so sometimes being first is actually the goal.
Who will be first with a meaningful home-run in smart garments? While only time will tell, Google appears to be miles ahead of the patent stage at this point in time. Whether they could actually translate that lead into a successful consumer product, is a whole other story for another day. Though I think it's safe to say that Google Glass too was miles ahead of the competition and the consumer passed on that idea in about five seconds flat.
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