NEC has helped develop smart clothing that measures bioinformation while you wear it. NEC utilized IoT to contribute to the new health service business conceptualized by Gunze.

"Is it possible to create a new business that will allow people to improve their health effortlessly and comfortably while engaging in daily life and work routines?" Gunze, an apparel maker, used the latest ICT and knowhow on manufacturing a fabric that combines high functionality and comfort to conceptualize a new service that contributes to improving people's quality of life (QOL). They developed smart clothing that incorporates wearable technology to measure a person's posture, calorie consumption, heartbeat, and other vital signs.
NEC was actively involved from the service conceptualization stage and collaborated in the development of Gunze's smart clothing. In this way, NEC is contributing to the creation of new, first-of-its-kind values, such as developing new services for sports clubs and better managing the health of employees, by providing technologies and knowhow on IoT.

Realizing smart clothing that can measure bioinformation without compromising comfort

Rapid social changes and turbulent business environments have made it increasingly difficult for people today to find time to maintain and promote their own health. Understanding this, Gunze conceptualized a new healthcare-related service that can contribute to improving people's quality of life (QOL). After extensive discussions on how to acquire and utilize various kinds of data on the human body, they decided to focus on human "posture" data.

Gunze embarked on developing smart clothing that incorporates wearable technology to visualize posture information, such as the degree of stoop or body contortion. Gunze aimed for a service that allows workers to effectively manage their physical conditions through the use of bioinformation that includes not only posture data, but also calorie consumption, heartbeat and other vital signs. Smart clothing (clothing for measuring bioinformation) requires comfort for daily use as well as for training purposes. Gunze's goal was to develop a technology that can deliver this kind of comfort.

Combining Gunze's electrically conductive fiber and NEC's thin device technology to ensure comfort

Gunze developed "conductive knit materials," such as knitted electrodes for acquiring bioinformation and knit wires that capture human movements. Utilizing these technologies enables accurately capturing movements of the human body. For example, when a person stoops, the shoulder blades open sideways to stretch the fiber. What Gunze did was to visualize the degree of stoop by measuring this movement with a sensor. Since the sensor and wire components expand and contract in the same way as the fiber, the material fits the body while serving as a "device" for measuring human posture, enabling it to be worn comfortably as an everyday undergarment.

The smart clothing incorporates a thin and
flexible compact wireless communication
device on the chest area.

From early-stage discussions on generating ideas for a service that caters to consumer needs, NEC helped in developing Gunze's smart clothing from the IoT perspective. The clothing was equipped with a sensor for measuring number of steps, calorie consumption, and other bioinformation, and with NEC's compact wireless communication device that supports BLE.* This enabled smart clothing that is thin and flexible, and can be worn safely and comfortably. Data collected through the device is automatically sent to a smartphone, on which a special app can be used to visually and easily check posture and activity level. This data is also stored on NEC's cloud platform. Companies using the system will be able to provide high-added value services that improve QOL, such as providing advice on improving posture and preventing backache and shoulder stiffness, and analyzing trends and comparing users, based on the large volume of user data accumulated.

*BLE: Bluetooth Low Energy

Operation image of smart clothing

Providing unique NEC solutions to improve QOL

Gunze has initiated field trials of the smart clothing in cooperation with instructors and users in the 18 sports clubs it manages throughout Japan. Going forward, Gunze plans to apply the clothign in the protection and monitoring of elderly persons and in managing the physical conditions of employees working in different workplaces.

Leveraging the achievements made through this technical collaboration, NEC will realize other solutions that contribute to companies aiming to create new value through IoT and to individuals wishing to improve their health effortlessly and comfortably while engaging in daily life and work routines.

Visualizing data on the human body, such as the degree of stoop, enables offering high-added value services that contribute to improving QOL.