Smart Shirts Take the Court at US Open

Tennis fans attending the US Open this year in New York may have a reason to give the ball boys a second look. Several of them will be sporting the latest in wearable technology — Polo Tech smart shirts designed by Ralph Lauren.

As the official outfitter for the annual US Tennis Association tournament, Ralph Lauren chose to debut the technology in front of a massive audience that can surpass 700,000 over the course of the two-week match schedule. According to the company, the debut marks the first time a global sporting event is being used as a platform to launch a collection of wearable products.

The shirt will not be worn by any players during matches, but Marcos Giron, the top-ranked singles player at the collegiate level, wore the Polo Tech shirt during his practice sessions (see image on right).

The black nylon compression shirt, currently designed only for men, includes a stretchy band that is worn on the chest and attached with snaps to a 1.5-ounce “black box” located near the left ribcage. It detects physiological data to capture movement and direction and integrates the “ABCs” of biometrics: activity, breathing, and cardiac readings. An integrated accelerometer and gyroscope help track the number of steps taken and calories burned.

The shirt serves as the sensor; it has no added plugs or wires. Conductive, silver-yarn-based threads woven into the anti-microbial, moisture-wicking fabric contact the skin and relay data via Bluetooth to the black box, which then streams the data in real-time to an iPhone app (see image below).

The box needs to be recharged, via USB, after approximately 30 minutes. The shirt can go in the washing machine, after the box has been detached. It's theoretically possible that in the future a user might own several shirts and a single box.

Ralph Lauren created the shirt using technology developed by the tech firm OMsignal, which is based in Montreal. OMsignal has been working on wearable technology for some time and already offers a line of clothing that connects with mobile devices.

For the full story, see EBN sister site EDN.

16 comments on “Smart Shirts Take the Court at US Open

  1. _hm
    September 6, 2014

    May be a shirt plus device, with a better connection to body. Needs to do more work for real smart shirt!

  2. SP
    September 7, 2014

    This is great. This technology can save many from fatal encounters on field. I remember a football player who died on the field due to cardiac arrest.

  3. Susan Fourtané
    September 8, 2014


    What kind of device connected to the body? Sensors allow mobility. What other thing do you want to connect to a shirt/body? What do you expect from a smart shirt at this point of development? 

    The shirt has sensors detecting and capturing biometrics and sending the data to the “black box” that streams the data in real-time to an iPhone app. The fact that this shirt is already available is a nice step into smart clothing. 

    Data about breathing, cardiac readings, blood pressure, etc. can be sent to the person's healthcare system and this could be information that could save lives as it is transmitted in real-time before something more serious happens. 



  4. Susan Fourtané
    September 8, 2014


    Indeed. It can save lives. You gave a good example there. 


    September 8, 2014

    I expect there wil be myriad applications ofr this technology in the healthcare field and in things like child monitoring and OAP monitoring,  I hope the cost of the technology is low so that it can spread quickly.

  6. _hm
    September 8, 2014

    @Susan: Looks more like improvised holter monitor, needs to do better work.

  7. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    September 8, 2014

    According to the reporter, the retail pricing hasn't been announced. That's a key piece of information. I'm willing to bet its still prohibitively expensive. At the same time, these first steps will undoubtably lead to something that will be affordable in time.

  8. Susan Fourtané
    September 9, 2014


    “Looks more like improvised holter monitor, needs to do better work.”

    I don't think it's quite the same. The sensors in the shirt do more than symply record the heart's rhythm. It goes beyond that. Did you read the whole article?

    Also, wearing a holter monitor for some days with all those electrodes and wires all over your chest is neither comfortable nor aesthetic. You probably can't sleep well. It looks so uncomfortable that I een doubt it can be 100 % precise in the results. You can wear a holter for a couple of days, no more.

    On the other hand, you can always wear a shirt with sensors and your health would be monitored constantly, which is one of the points of smart clothing. Even babies could wear a shirt with sensors without problem. 

    To have an argument against, you need to have evidence that this doesn't work, or an answer as to how it would be better improved. I asked you: What would you like to see in smart clothing? You haven't answered the question yet.




  9. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 9, 2014

    One thing I found as the limitation of this smart shirt is that the data from the blackbox is transmitted using Bluetooth .

    For an athelete such as a football player who is running somewhere in the field , the blue tooth range will not allow the real time transmission of the data to the monitoring system. So if a player is about to suffer a cardiac arrest, such system won't be able to alert the system iuntil the plaer returns from the filed.

    Can some other means of data streaming be used ?



  10. _hm
    September 9, 2014

    Hey Susan: “includes a stretchy band that is worn on the chest and attached with snaps to a 1.5-ounce “black box” located near the left ribcage”

    All sensors should be in stretchy band and is connected black box. Shirt as such has very limited or no function. Holter are also available in similar from.



  11. Adeniji Kayode
    September 15, 2014

    @prabhakar, That is a smart observation you made there but what other mode of transmission fo you think would do a better job?

  12. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 16, 2014


    I would consider an option of embedded mobile in that black box which would use cell phone network to transmit data to its host.

  13. SunitaT
    September 17, 2014

    If the shirt material is just smart and not comfortable (as liner/cotton clothes are) then users may react differently to different material. For example if it is synthetic then users will sweat more and this will probably mess up with the correct statistical data. 

  14. SunitaT
    September 17, 2014

    “I would consider an option of embedded mobile in that black box which would use cell phone network to transmit data to its host.”

    @Prabhakar: BlueTooth LE seems to be the better option here because that is what close proximity sensors have been using expecially when they are close to smart watches or a smartphone that is with the Coach.

  15. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 18, 2014


    You are right about Bluetooth as a suitable medium for data transmission from sensors to the black box.

    What I am talking about is the communication between the black box and the host server which will analyse this data in real time to warn the athelete and may be his/her physician about any impending medical emergency .

  16. Eldredge
    September 22, 2014

    I suppose, for some applications, it may be sufficent to merely record data to a device worn by the athelete, for anaylsis after the fact.

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