Theoretically, summer has finally arrived here in Helsinki, but you never know about the weather in Finland during these months.
The time is obviously right to take a closer look at smart clothing.
We’ve always had a close relationship with Aalto University of Technology: many of our employees study or studied there and others lecture at the university on a variety of subjects, including service design, software development and work culture.
This year, in addition to the usual crop of summer workers, we’ve had the opportunity to work with a summer course called Protopaja (translation: proto workshop). This is the first time the course is held at the Aalto Electrics Engineering department and we are happy to be part of it.
The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the prototype design process, with a customer utilizing several technologies and concepts like IoT, sensors, wearable smart textiles and digital service.
And it’s all going to be open sourced.
Wearables and smart textiles have been a hot topic for a while now and Finland is home to several world-class manufacturers like Clothing+, Myontec, Polar and Suunto, just to name few. A lot of research and study has gone into wearables, but not much of it is out in the public domain where startups can utilize it.
Wearables + occupational health
The Protopaja team decided to focus on occupational health services using wearable and smart textiles, with sensors measuring and collecting upper body movements and sending data to the backend service for further processing. The backend solution will be based on Vör, a product created as a part of Futurice’s Spice Program for open source.
After just two weeks of working, the team was already able to pull off a demo where body movements were identified by the sensors, transferred and visualized as 3D model on a local laptop. Pretty damn good!
All the hardware components were ordered from sparkfun.com or adafruit.com, with delivery times counted in days.
Now that the engineering team has gained in confidence after managing to make an end-to-end, feasible working prototype, the next steps would be to find best sensor balance and design the service and clothes. Luckily, we have Aalto Art student on the team, too – the design for the shirt will be just right.
The team has learned that the basic stuff is pretty easy and fast to setup for engineers who know electrics/electronics/software.
The hard part involves stuff like:
- How to filter and process meaningful data from what the sensors are constantly pushing
- How to reliably use “dry” sensors instead of “wet” ones
- How to make clothing and digital service work together seamlessly with minimum need of user interaction to calibrate, charge the battery and transfer data
- How to bake the processor, battery and electrical leads into the clothes and still to keep it washable
- What is a digital service in this realm that people actually need
Especially the last one is crucial.
Hopefully we’ll shed some light on all these questions over the next 6 weeks. At the end we’ll have created useful package for others to reuse.
In the next Futuwear blog post Kenta Kusumoto will go through more deeply the architecture and technology choices.
Thanks to Kalle Virta (Elomatic) and Heikki Jaakkola (Clothing+ / Jabil) for your feedback.
Team Aalto (Eveliina, Aki, Elmo, Eimo, Ilpo, Alex): keep up the speed and focus! I’m now heading to holiday.
Have a nice summer!
FutuWear Product owner