Transforming Ordinary Garments into Functional Wearables

Dr. Sabine Seymour is an entrepreneur and researcher focusing on the next generation of wearables. Sabine is the founder and CEO of Moondial, a consultancy working with Fortune 100 companies worldwide on inventing new products, examining manufacturing processes, and building prototypes. She recently founded the soft computation start-up Moonlab to serve the need for a truly seamless sensor system for clothing. One of the next chances to meet her is at our WT | Wearable Technologies Conference in Munich on January 26.

1. Since when are you involved in smart textiles and why did you get involved in this field in the first place?

My grandfather was a tailor and my mother is a trained fashion designer. A great influence on me in my early youth was a Commodore 64 I received from my father. While tech potential fascinated and inspired me I felt limited by having to be inside and sitting in front of a 2-dimensional computer screen. I need to be mobile. That’s why started working with mobile technology in the late 90s and started to imagine seamless mobile computing systems.

The first wearable was a helmet as a game controller in ’96-ish. Steve Mann came to NYU, transmitting images from his “goggles” in ’95 and about the same time I was introduced to the “firefly dress” by Maggie Orth. I witnessed the appearance of these early wearables and was further inspired. All in all I would argue that my involvement was a natural progression.

2. Looking back at years and years of developing wearables what was the most important technical advancement in your opinion in the past decade or two? What really helped you to push your projects to the next level? What are you still waiting for that does not exist yet?

Over the past 20 years I have been involved in a variety of research projects ranging from testing resistance in a conductive fiber to modifying the molecular structure of a fiber. From building prototypes using the now ubiquitous Ardunio (I started with basic stamp) to the maker movement that enabled us to explore technologies that were inaccessible before.

In the early 2000s we started working with corporations on product and R&D projects and in parallel worked on a host of research projects that were exhibited at conferences like the ISWC (International Symposium of Wearable Computing), etc.

Right now is an exceptionally exciting time. The eco-system of technological, social, and legal components is finally aligned to construct garments that are ‘a node in a networked system’. The technological developments that have allowed this to occur are myriad and they include advances in conductive fibers, printed electronics as well as improved wireless standards (WIFI, BLE,…). In addition, the cloud came upon us, data can be processed at ever increasing speeds and battery technology is constantly improving.

In the near future I hope to see development in organic electronics, efficient energy harvesting and enhanced machine learning.

3. What are you working on at the moment?

Currently, I am working on the SoftSpot!

The SoftSpot [patent pending] is a unique plug + play sensor system designed specifically for clothing. SoftSpot monitors biometric and environmental data while automatically connecting a garment with the “Internet of Things”. SoftSpot’s proprietary technology leads the way from ‘Wearables’ to ‘Disappearables’, minimizing the disruptions and disadvantages that current devices have on our lives. The SoftSpot is invisible, soft, washable, flexible, secure, and wireless making biometric monitoring a seamless and unobtrusive experience. It is a B2B product for that can be integrated as easily into clothing as a zipper.

The SoftSpot quickly transforms an ordinary garment into a functional “wearable”. The data derived from the body and the environment is correlated to create applications for mobile devices. These applications might identify the best workout regimes,, help create treatment plan, prevent injuries, and personal your sporting experience.

4. You will be a speaker at our WT | Wearable Technologies Conference 2016 Europe on January 26 in Munich presenting in the session “How to Make Technology Disappear”? What are use cases where you think invisible tech make sense vs. use cases where people would want to show off the technology they are wearing?

Technology (even wearable technology) is a means to an end. There is already much hidden technology in the clothes and synthetic fibers that we wear today. We do not ‘see’ the tech behind Lycra yet manufacturers and consumers alike experience any perceived benefits.

I like using the metaphor of a car. There is a lot of ‘invisible’ technology in my car, which makes it safer, more comfortable and more attractive, but we still just call it a car. Technology-infused clothing will be the same.

5. What is your favorite wearable on the market right now?

I can tell you about the technology-integrated products that I wear personally, but they range depending on context of use.
When I go snowboarding I love my heated boots, when I golf I use a GPS watch and when I am on my bike in the gym I use a wearable heart rate monitor.

In earnest: I cannot wait to wear a SoftSpot-enabled base layer that I can ‘program’ simply by downloading the APP, which corresponds to my chosen activity.

So don’t miss Sabine on stage and register for #WTEU16 today!