Wearable and flexible electronics: Google’s Smart Textile Project follows wrong market
By Pradeep Chakraborty July 6, 2015
Google recently announced Project Jacquard, to build touch-sensitive textiles in clothes using conductive yarns in partnership with iconic jeans maker Levi Strauss.
The current prototype allows users to turn on light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs with a tap on the textile, increase or decrease brightness with vertical swipes, and change color with horizontal swipes. Google said the conductive yarns are strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom, but did not disclose technical details or how they are made.
The company is also developing custom connectors, electronic components, communication protocols, and an ecosystem of simple applications and cloud services for the project. Google hopes Project Jacquard can help designers and developers to build connected, touch-sensitive textiles into their own products.
As Google moves to partner with fashion brands before the company can establish solid and clear use cases for smart textiles in the consumer market, expect Project Jacquard to end in a similar way as Google Glass. Partnering with fashion brands is becoming a more common strategy for wearable electronics.
For example, Intel partners with Opening Ceremony, a fashion design company, on its smart bracelet MICA , with Luxottica on smart glasses, and Fossil on smart watches, while Fitbit collaborates with Tory Burch.
However, the major factor holding back smart textiles and most wearables isn’t that they don’t look good enough, it’s that there is not a compelling use case for consumers to pay the extra cost they bring.
What’s more, value and success in smart textiles will come primarily from medical applications, not fashion (client registration required). Expect the partnership with Levi to generate some attention-grabbing headlines, but end in a similar fashion to the Google Glass, with limited growth.
Source: Lux Research, USA.