Views of the 5G future: Wired wardrobes and the future of clothes

“Advances in technology don’t always have to be in the service of creating new gadgets or even types of interaction. They can sometimes be about making things we already love better.”

Oz Woloshyn, Host, This Time Tomorrow Podcast

These views of tomorrow are based on conversations with industry leaders at the forefront of creating the 5G future, as shared in iHeart Radio’s This Time Tomorrow podcast sponsored by T-Mobile for Business.

View 1: Sewing safety into your next statement piece

When we think wearable technology, we often think of VR glasses or smartwatches, but traditional retail is also adapting to technology—by literally weaving it into their fabric. Why? For Paul Dillinger, head of Global Product Innovation for Levi Strauss, the answer is to keep people safe.

“It wasn't about integrating technical interfaces and little teeny-tiny washable computers for the hell of it… it was to make people's daily commute on their bike safer,” says Dillinger. This would allow commuters, for example, to accept a phone call, drop a pin, or interact with a navigation app through a gesture on their sleeve, instead of on a screen.

For the last six years, Dillinger has been tasked with the job of bringing Levi’s into the space of wearable tech. Right now this connection is powered through a smartphone in your pocket—but with the lower latency and greater connectivity that 5G will enable, these sensors could connect straight to the network and allow for a new type of clothing that not only makes a statement, but also integrates into your environment.

View 2: Empowering the athlete in all of us

Most people start a journey of fitness with some kind of goal in mind. This could be finishing your first 10K, swimming a mile, or learning how to play squash. For Paul Winsper, VP of Athlete Performance at Under Armour, there is untapped potential in improving performance with better data through connected sports apparel.

“We want to make athletes better,” says Windsper. And that means all types of athletes. The challenges are the same, says Windsper, “no matter whether you're trying to win MVP of the league or whether you're trying to just perform and keep yourself healthy and well, and [be] a good parent or a good friend.”

According to Windsper, having smarter, connected fabrics can enhance the athletic journey by providing relevant, contextualized data at the right time for improvement. One product Under Armour has developed that will collect and analyze new data is the smart shoe. Eventually, these types of devices will likely be connected with 5G, which could allow real-time data to be processed at the edge for near-instant feedback so athletes can get the most from their training.

View 3: What’s old is new again

In a world of data, clothing brands crave more and more information—not only in order to optimize sales, but also to bring transparency to the entire product life cycle. Natasha Franck, founder and CEO of the startup Eon, is leveraging smart chip technology to connect consumers to manufacturers to drive better sustainability and new customer experiences.

Eon supports something called the circular economy. Unlike the linear economy, where base material creates products that create waste, the circular economy understands how products are being utilized, resold, repaired, and recycled. While the potential for greater efficiencies and new business models is enticing, the biggest barrier to companies embracing this circular economy has been that there is no way to identify products and materials after the sale. But with RFID tags and eventual 5G connection, says Franck, “Manufacturers can make sure that the materials that went into making those products can come back into the circular economy and be reused to make new products.”

In addition, manufacturers and brands can track usage and metrics, and consumers could maintain a digital wardrobe where they can input information about likes/dislikes and product malfunctions, and get recommendations for new products, creating a fundamentally different retail ecosystem of the future.

Want to hear more about the connected future of 5G? Listen to “Wired Wardrobes and the Future of Clothes,” part of iHeart Radio’s This Time Tomorrow podcast sponsored by T-Mobile for Business.

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