Top 5 Wearable Clothing Products to Replace your Fitness Tracking Watch
The term wearable tech does not just refer to smartwatches and fitness bands. It can be used to mean any device or item that is worn on the body and which connects wirelessly to a smartphone or other devices. In this context, wearables can be anything from smartwatches to smart earrings. Today we are going to talk about wearable clothing. We have reached a point where your shorts or pair of pants can do more than just clothe you.
As with smartwatches, most wearable clothing technologies are geared towards fitness with a few others designed for other somewhat unusual purposes. In this tech roundup, we look at some of the most notable clothing wearables out there and what makes them stand out.
1. Polar Team Pro Shirt
Fitness tracking has always relied on activity trackers to monitor important metrics like distance, speed and duration. This is no longer the case. If fitness watches don’t appeal to you, there is always the option of wearing a shirt that tallies up your metrics just as efficiently. The Polar Team Pro Shirt does exactly that.
Polar announced its smart fitness shirt at CES 2017. As you would expect, a couple of bumps are visible on the outside indicating where the various sensors are embedded. Available sensors include a heart rate monitor woven into the fabric and a GPS-enabled motion tracker fixed in the collar. So there is no need to wear any bulky devices or straps; the shirt does all the tracking on its own.
The Polar Team Pro Shirt is designed specifically for use with teams. Coaches can study the collected metrics and see how each individual’s performance has varied throughout the season and even compare it to that of other teammates. They can also note and respond promptly to performance changes.
The shirt is currently not available to consumers. It has been undergoing tests with various sports teams. But the company may launch it officially in late 2017. There are also no pricing details though we expect nothing short of $300 especially considering that it is targeted at Pro teams.
2. Hexoskin Smart Shirts
Hexoskin sells a series of smart shirts designed for both men and women. The fitness-focused shirts come embedded with a number of sensors to collect different metrics for athletes, researchers and anyone who would like a closer look at their health and fitness level.
Available sensors include a heart rate monitor, a breathing rate monitor and a motion tracker. Using these sensors, the shirt can track your;
- Heart rate and heart rate variability. You can see an accurate heart rate reading in real time and see how your workout is impacting you.
- Breathing rate and breathing volume. You can see lung capacity variations during workouts and observe how well you are breathing. This helps you control your breathing and prevent respiratory problems like hyperventilation.
- Activity metrics including steps, intensity level, distance, calories and pace.
- Sleep. Sleep tracking is achieved by monitoring both your heart rate and activity levels.
The shirt is Bluetooth-enabled to allow wireless transmission of workout data to your smartphone. Despite all these sensors being within the fabric, the shirts are machine washable. The lightweight and breathable fabric dries quickly.
3. MyZone MZ-3 Physical Activity Belt
The MZ-3 Physical Activity Belt goes around the chest just like a heart rate monitoring strap. But unlike a strap-on heart tracker, it does much more than just tell you how fast or slow your heart is beating. Using the embedded activity tracker, it can accurately monitor your workout metrics including distance, speed, duration and pace.
You can use it in any activity including running, cycling, sports, treadmill and even swimming. By studying both your activity levels and your heart rate variations, it can give you an idea of how intensive your performance is. This is represented in form of zones, of which there are five. The different zones are color coded for easy reading with the lowest one being gray and the highest red.
There is a competitive feature where you can compete with other users around the world based on MyZone Effort points. This helps add some motivation for those who work out alone.
The belt itself is very comfortable and straps snuggly around the lower part of your chest. The main module containing all the sensors is at the front. This positioning means that the heart rate monitor is highly accurate and picks up on heart rate changes almost instantaneously. The module is also Bluetooth enabled, meaning you can connect wirelessly with other compatible devices.
If you are looking for an all-round fitness chest strap that monitors your heart rate as well as your workouts, this is it. There is no need to wear a less accurate watch or bracelet on your wrist. Just strap on the belt and you are good to go.
4. OMsignal OMbra
A good, firm sports bra is a workout essential for women. It provides the confidence, comfort and stability to power through anything. OMbra is a great sports bra. The experts at OMsignal managed to make it highly supporting while maintaining its breathable and lightweight character. But it is more than just a bra. A closer look reveals a series of sensors embedded along the bottom edge. These sensors capture two important things: your heart rate and your breathing rate.
By measuring these two components, a personalized virtual coach learns how your performance is changing. It can even create custom running zones to help you run better with more results. This is not all. Every time you wear the bra to go for a run, you have to clip on a small black box. This is the brains of the whole thing. All the data collected by the sensors is streamed here before being transmitted wirelessly to your smartphone.
The black box also contains a motion tracker which measures your distance, pace and cadence as you eat up the miles. These activity metrics combined with heart rate and breathing rhythm are put through proprietary algorithms. They measure your performance, provide audio coaching and adapt specifically to suit your goals and fitness level.
The OMbra was created specifically for outdoor runners. Recently, the company added the ability to track treadmill running. The same metrics measured outside are also measured on the treadmill.
5. Sensoria running socks
So far, we have mentioned two shirts, a belt and a bra. Now, it is time for a pair of really smart socks. The Sensoria running socks introduce a whole new idea of fitness tracking. They are designed for runners who want to track how far and fast they run as well as how well they run.
While the high-tech part is great, they are still socks and they need to be comfortable. To this end, the socks have been made using a highly breathable material that quickly wicks away moisture. It is comfortable and will not leave your feet sweaty and smelly.
As for the technology bit, each sock contains three sensors located under the foot. The three sensors, embedded within the sock textile, measure foot pressure as you run. To relay this data to the anklet, conductive fibers are meshed together with the textile. This allows the sock to act as some sort of circuit board.
The center of the operation is located inside the anklet, a small device you attach around your ankle. The socks contain magnetic touch points to keep the anklet firmly in place as you pound the pavement. Inside the anklet is an accelerometer which keeps track of your speed, distance and cadence. It then transmits this data via Bluetooth to the Sensoria app.
Through the app, you can get live metrics via audio. Some of the metrics available include calories, foot landing, pace, duration, foot landing and speed.
Overall, this is an impressive effort to make fitness monitoring for runners so much easier. With no support for third party running platforms such as Strava, it is not exactly a gadget for pro athletes. But amateur runners will be glad for the deeper insights garnered from the sensors.
Important Considerations When Shopping for Clothing Wearables
The whole wearables thing is still fairly new. This combined with the fact that there are so many companies selling their own thing makes choosing the best products a bit confusing for consumers. But we are here to help. The above five recommendations should give you a place to start your search. If you want to go beyond these five, here are the most important considerations to keep in mind when comparing among various wearable options you will come across.
1. What are your needs?
As the wearable industry grows, there has emerged a dizzying variety of products for different purposes. Some clothing wearables are only for heart rate tracking, others are designed for runners, others provide all-round activity monitoring and so on.
To avoid confusion, be clear about what you need. What aspect of your workout do you want to track or would you prefer to track as much as possible. If you are a coach, what metrics do you want to see from your players so as to measure and compare their performances? If you are female, do you need something that also offers breast support in addition to activity tracking?
Once you have an idea of what you need, it becomes much easier to buy the right clothing wearable.
2. What is your budget?
Another important aspect to decide on before you start shopping around is budget. In other words, how much are you comfortable and able to spend? Wearable clothing technology is generally more expensive than most fitness watches and bracelets. Most products are in the $150 to $300 range. Keep this in mind when planning your budget.
How much you spend depends mostly on what clothing item you want. A pair of smart socks or a smart bra is going to cost less than a smart fitness tracking shirt. A full smart gear is going to be even pricier. A pair of smart running shoes is not going to be cheap.
The most important thing is to establish a range you are comfortable with and then look for products that are within that range. Don’t be afraid to bump up your budget a bit if you find really good wearable that is slightly out of your planned range.
3. What is your style?
Let’s face it; when it comes to wearable tech as especially wearable apparel, style is almost as important as the technology. After all, this is something you are going to wear on your body. On the surface, it is no different from any other shirt or pair of pants.
Like you would judge any other clothing on style, do it too for the wearables. As you compare among various products, go for those that fit your taste and style. When you wear something you feel good in, it is inevitable that you are going to be more confident and motivated to exercise.
Fortunately, many companies sell their smart apparel in different styles and colors. For instance, you can get an OMbra in various styles and sizes. Same goes for the Hexoskin Smart Shirts.
This is an essential part of any wearable. Connectivity often determines how helpful a product is. Thankfully, most products have no issue here. Most make use of Bluetooth to transmit workout data directly to your smartphone or other third party devices. You can see live how various metrics are changing and view the full report after your workout.
When checking for connectivity, ensure that the wearable is compatible with your smartphone, comes with an easy-to-use app and has a strong connection that does not keep cutting off.
5. Comfort and ease of use
You wouldn’t buy a shirt that is uncomfortable, would you? The same is true for smart apparel. It does not matter how much technology is contained within its fabric, if it causes considerable discomfort, it will not help you much. It will only serve as a distraction and affect your workout performance. Check to see what other users are saying about comfort and make sure you buy the right size.
Would you wear a smart piece of clothing to measure your fitness performance?