Sensors Embedded in Clothing? Check Out Sensoria Smart Socks

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The first wave of self-tracking devices—Fitbit, FuelBand, Basis Band—has washed ashore and perhaps receded somewhat. Even so, sports and activity trackers make up some 61% of the wearables market, and market watchers predict more growth.

Most of these new health monitors strap to your wrist to record heart rate and activity. But Heapsylon’s Sensoria smart socks are a little different and may provide a clue to which way the wind blows—in the near future, more fitness trackers and health sensors may be embedded in clothing or attached to the skin. Here’s how they work.

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The company affixes textile sensors to each stocking, fore and aft. These sensors record foot pressure, heart rate, and body temperature and relay the data to a horseshoe-shaped device magnetically attached to the sock’s cuff, snug as Jeordie La Forge’s visor.

The socks are more accurate step trackers than the wrist-worn type that rely solely on accelerometers. But even better, if you’re a runner—Heapsylon’s initial target market—the socks’ pressure data are arranged inside a foot diagram in an accompanying app to show your average foot strike.

Running experts say the mid-foot strike is best, but it’s difficult for most runners to track their form. Though estimates vary, a significant fraction of runners will suffer a running-related injury each year, and while other factors may contribute to injuries, poor form is an important factor.

Sensoria_App_Run_CoachOther key running data include stride length and cadence. A digital “coach” in the app will let runners know when their stride length is too long or short and help them maintain a consistent pace by counting out step rhythm.

Heapsylon says their socks are comfortable and can be washed regularly. In extensive run testing, the ankle device didn’t slip down or prove much of a distraction. A LAPTOP Magazine review said the socks were comfortable, but they were only able to test a prototype anklet.

Future applications could range beyond running to other balance and stance dependent sports like golf, baseball, snowboarding, or skiing. Heapsylon says they’ll release a developer toolkit to expand their product’s capabilities.

Though the firm’s Indiegogo campaign is finished, they are taking pre-orders for shipment next year. Folks can buy the socks, anklet, and app for $149. Additional socks can be purchased in three-packs for $59.

Earlier this year, Gartner forecast wearable electronics would be a $10 billion market by 2016. Credit Suisse, meanwhile, said the market would increase ten-fold over the next three to five years to $50 billion. Neither forecast assigned a dominant fraction of the market to the kind of wearable tech you strap on your wrist or head.

Most wearable electronics won’t be conspicuous; rather, they’ll blend into the background, sewn into clothes or affixed to skin. And while watches, glasses, and the like will appeal to some—wearable “quantified self” sensors will be better integrated invisibly, coordinated by the more powerful, battery-hungry smartphone in your pocket.

Heapsylon has their eye on that larger market. If they can successfully design for socks—which get stomped on thousands of times a day and regularly thrown in the wash—their sensors may work more universally. Ultimately, the firm wants to be “the GoreTex of embeddable computing.”

If Gartner and Credit Suisse are right, Sensoria may be well positioned to provide the smart part of all that intelligent clothing.

Image Credit: Heapsylon

Discussion — One Response

  • mikemcfarlane November 20, 2013 on 9:38 pm

    Odd to see this article today, I lay in bed awake all last night thinking about how to visualise and use the data from these devices.
    I don’t think one in isolation is much use apart from it’s original design intent e.g. I love having a GPS in my watch to record my heart rate and where I have ridden my bike.
    It’s the combined data that matters. If I add a cadence sensor to see how fast the pedals are going round (I ride a fixed gear, ie stop pedalling bike stops, so this is interesting to me), add in a neuroheadset like the Emotiv Insight, a depth sensor/video camera like the Structure sensor that just finished on Kickstarter and combining all that data will create some interesting new insights into my ride.
    The other aspect I had been thinking about as a cyclist, is accident reconstruction, particularly involving cars. The law in the UK and the US is biased towards the car driver. I wonder what will happen to accident reconstruction when you can combine the laser scanner, radar, GPS, accelerometers/gyros etc etc from the car and add in GPS, heart rate, accelerometer (Fitbit et al) etc etc, maybe also laser scanners or depth sensors mounted on the bike. Maybe both parties wearing neuroheadsets so we can gauge state of mind. We will be able to model the accident in great detail, what happened when, how bodies tumble through the air, how they impact. When this happens, how will laws be impacted?