Internet of Things

Why Google's smart jacket could be a boon for commuters

At South by Southwest 2017, Google and Levi's unveiled their new smart commuter jacket, which allows a wearer to send commands to their smartphone.

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Image: Google

Google is ready to take IoT to the next level: Smart jackets. At South by Southwest this week, Google and Levi's unveiled their smart commuter jacket, which enables the wearer to send instructions to their smartphone.

Google and Levi's first announced plans to create the interactive jacket last year. It will mark the first widely available product using technology from Google's Project Jacquard, announced in 2015, which aims to make it possible to "weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms," according to the project's website. Basically, Google has made conductive yarn, which will allow the company to create smart clothes and smart furniture by adding in interactive surfaces to the fabric.

"Project Jacquard will allow designers and developers to build connected, touch-sensitive textiles into their own products," the website stated.

The Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket was designed specifically for urban bike commuters. The jacket is dark denim, very similar in terms of looks to other Levi's commuter coats. The only distinguishing feature of the smart jacket is a small, screenless fabric touch interface on the left wrist.

SEE: CIO Jury: 50% of IT leaders will invest in IoT in 2017

The touch interface can recognize five gestures: Brushing out, brushing in, double tapping, full palming, and making a circular motion. It will come with an app in which users can designate what they would like each gesture to control, such as stopping and starting music, checking the time, receiving directions, dismissing or accepting phone calls, and learning about new texts, with the ability to respond with a pre-set message, Ars Technica reported. When a wearer receives a call, the wrist interface vibrates.

"Jacquard allows wearers to control their mobile experience and connect to a variety of services, such as music or maps, directly from the jacket," according to the website. "This is especially useful when it might be difficult to use the smart phone, like when you are riding on your bike."

This may also be helpful for professionals who bike to work, in terms of fielding calls and messages on the go.

But how do you wash it? Some of the jacket's technology that enables its smart capabilities is found in a removable USB drive, which plugs in under the left wrist and snaps in place, according to Ars Technica. You can also charge this USB separately to enable the coat to work.

In the future, developers will be able to connect existing apps and services to Jacquard-enabled clothes and create new features specifically for the platform, according to the Project Jacquard website. "We are also developing custom connectors, electronic components, communication protocols, and an ecosystem of simple applications and cloud services," it stated.

While the jacket reportedly worked well in demos at SXSW, it remains to be seen how well it will perform in the real world. It also is unclear if the jacket can potentially pose any security threat, as many other IoT devices do.

The jacket will be available in stores in the fall, for $350.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. At South by Southwest, Google and Levi's unveiled their smart jacket, which allows a user to complete tasks such as starting music, answering calls, and receiving directions, all from the coat.
  2. The jacket is part of Google's Project Jacquard, announced in 2015, which creates interactive yarn to create smart clothes and furniture.
  3. The jacket will be available in fall 2017, for $350.

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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