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Why your clothes need a mobile upgrade

Mike Elgan | April 15, 2013
The clothing most of us wear hasn't changed to keep up with mobile technology. But there are apparel makers that are rising to the challenge.

One newish product typical of the ScottEVest catalog is called the Fleece 7.0, which has 23 pockets, including one designed to hold a large iPad. (If you think that's a lot of pockets, another ScottEVestjacket has 37 pockets.) Some of the zippers lock. A mobile phone "Quick Draw" pocket lets you see and use the phone through clear plastic without removing it, which protects it from thieves and weather. The fleece also hides earbuds through the back into the mobile phone pocket, and gives them small pockets on either side of the collars to tuck them away when not in use.

Other companies sell clothes designed for mobile computing as well.

Several are selling jeans with pockets sized and placed for smartphones. One company called wtfJeans says their pants are iPhone 5 compatible with a perfectly sized pocket. The pants also have a USB thumb-drive pocket.

The Italian men's fashion house Zegna sells a Solar Ski Jacket. A built-in battery pack the company says is capable of charging a mobile phone is charged via built-in solar panels. (The jacket is not for sale this time of year.)

Gloves are another area of innovation. Because most touch phones and tablets use capacitive touch, you can't use them while wearing gloves -- unless they're designed for it. Agloves winter touchscreen gloves are made with silver-coated nylon, which makes all ten fingers conductive for use with any touch-screen device.

If you want to turn heads, Hi-Call gloves from Hi-Call are warm winter gloves with a speaker built into the left thumb and a microphone in the left pinkie. By doing the "talk on the phone" gesture, you can actually talk on the phone.

The future of mobile-compatible clothing

Although few companies currently sell practical, mobile-aware clothes, there's no shortage of great ideas by inventors and designers.

One designer created something called the Escape jacket, which has a very simple feature: A wireless-proof pocket. The pocket is lined with a wire mesh that blocks any wireless signals from coming or going. You can't receive calls and nobody can track you when the phone is in that pocket.

Researchers are developing ways for clothes to use your own movement to generate electricity. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed shoes that both generate and store electricity.

Not to be outdone, however, ScotEVest developed a jacket concept for the future. It's not a shipping product, but like a concept car, embodies ideas for the future. It has speakers built into the collar, a built-in microphone, an LTE hub, a lifestreaming camera, a waterproof iPad pocket, an RFID-blocking pocket, an iPhone dock, a signal-boosting fractal antenna, solar panels, batteries, display wrist panels and other features. It even keeps you warm.


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