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.
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