The New Fabric of our Lives?

Modern Edge Touts the Next Generation of Wearable Tech

“Get ready for 'Threadcasting,' a new model for wearables that’s poised to take mobile computing connections off your wrist and out of your pockets and weave them into the fabric of your clothing.” --Skip Newberry, president of the Technology Association of Oregon, quoted in Portland Business Journal

A past Chair and current Chair Emeritus of IDSA’s Board of Directors—Austen Angell, FIDSA—is founder and principal designer of Modern Edge, based in Portland, OR.  His firm teamed up with Patrick Chiang of Oregon State University and Shih-Hung Chen, China representative for MIT Sloan School of Management, to research and develop what Modern Edge has coined: Threadcasting.

“Wearable technologies originally were envisioned as embedded electronics in consumer apparel, but instead developed into standalone accessories for health and fitness tracking, communication and productivity,” comments Angell, lead author. “We see wearables going back into apparel at significant consumer scale to compliment the digital accessories which are beginning to mature in the market. How this works for each apparel manufacturer to a large degree depends on its brand  promise and consumer usage model. Some technologies will see broad adoption and others will be brand dependent. But all of them will add a layer of subtle enhancement and user control over our environment and our interactions.” 

Catalysts for the shift include:

  • improved battery chemistries;
  • smaller, lighter and less expensive components;
  • a shared ecosystem with other internet-of-things nodes;
  • improved wireless networking protocols; 
  • and strategic business cases driven by the apparel industry.

Co-author Stephanie Battista, senior strategist for wearables at Modern Edge, says, “If you study groups of young people, many of the interchanges they have, even when physically co-located, involve using their digital devices. Teenagers will text each other from across the table. They hardly look at each other. If some of the technology they use could be part of their clothing and not a separate device, it could work to encourage more fluid, personal interactions among people by being less, overtly intrusive.”

Threadcasting is getting global attention. At the 10th annual All That Matters in Singapore in 2015, Battista was interviewed by Hugh Forrest, director of the Interactive Festival at South by Southwest (SXSW). Their talk, entitled “The Future of Tech: How Will Wearables Reality Change the Way We Consume Content,” addressed: “What are the most exciting tech that will be adopted quickly by consumers?” and “How are wearables being utilized for the entertainment industry?”

Angell adds, “Most of us already are employing digital enhancement in everyday storytelling with our phones and other wearables. We receive reports to guide our health and share digital photos while having conversations. The controls of these technologies will continue to become more subtle and gesture driven. Technologies like Google’s Soli, Microsoft's Kinect and Samsung's gesture control will continue to mature, become more subtle and enjoy wider acceptance. Threadcasting will help us control our entire environment, and controling the devices we can’t see will become a much more significant experience than controlling the devices directly in front of us."

The Modern Edge and OSU white paper on “Threadcasting” can be downloaded here: http://modernedge.com/wearables-in-apparel-threadcasting/