The (Un)Controllable Rise of Smart Clothing

In the second instalment of the Toronto Wearables Series in IP Osgoode’s IPilogue, I discussed how wearable technology, such as smart watches or smart headbands, has become somewhat common. Indeed, it has enabled users to conveniently stay updated on correspondence, plans, and even fitness schedules. Smart clothing, however, has been less thoroughly explored and advertised to date. In fact, the 2015-2025 decade has been identified as the “Wearable Era”. This new realm of innovation takes the smart technology away from the wrist and integrates it into materials that cover all areas of the body, which results in a host of benefits. However, balanced with these benefits is the risk of diminished privacy given the clothing’s ability to track any of the wearer’s bodily metrics. As a result, it is worthwhile to consider whether a regulatory solution could offer reconciliation.

Smart clothing offers a wide range of benefits. For example, athletes are now able to wear clothing during training that monitor a variety of helpful metrics including cadence, ground contact time, pelvic rotation, and stride length. This results in a more efficient training routine since athletes can entrust their smart clothing with accurate monitoring, which allows them to solely focus on their activities. Similar benefits apply to non-athletes, too. A collaboration between Levi and Google created the Commuter Trucker Jacket, which is connected to Google’s Project Jacquard Platform. This allows users to access music, GPS, and calling applications on their mobile devices without actually touching their telephones. Another company has created a swimsuit that uses Artificial Intelligence to protect its user from UV protection by notifying the user when she has been in the sun for too long. Furthermore, smart clothing now presents a solution for the segments of the population who need close medical monitoring, but cannot do so on their own, such as the elderly or infants. As a result, the benefits span from convenience to safety. Additionally, there is also a reduction in healthcare costs because of efficient and affordable wearables.

While both technology and fashion enthusiasts may be justifiably excited at the prospect of these innovations, there is also room for concern. Given the recent changes in fashion and the fact that technology is quickly getting to a point where it can evade all of our personal data by getting it directly from our bodies, privacy laws and implications must be considered. This also raises the question of how data collection from smart clothing is, in fact, different from data collection from another technological medium. Are new or revised regulations even necessary, or should the privacy concern be a technology-neutral one? Furthermore, how does smart clothing fit with the consent and information collection and analysis (i.e. data mining) requirements under The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”)? Indeed, these questions have not yet been thoroughly researched and written about, which presents a ripe area for analysis.

However, before diving into a proposed approach to implement an effective solution to resolve the tension between privacy and smart clothing, it is worthwhile to consider its scope. While, a successful solution does not necessarily mean reinventing the wheel, certain regulatory adjustments need to be made given the high speed of technology and the unique invention of smart clothing. The key questions, therefore, are: should regulations surrounding smart clothing be technology neutral? What is the difference between smart clothing and smart phones? The next instalment in the series will focus on this.

The Dark Side of Wearable Technology

In an earlier post, I discussed how wearables are becoming prominent in modern life, with Toronto being a notable hotspot for technology development and related interest. From a legal perspective, there are two main concerns with wearable technology: privacy and product liability. This instalment in the Toronto Wearables Series will focus on the former.

The primary issue with smart clothing is that the articles are constantly collecting, transmitting, and storing data, which means that they have information that is often considered personal, private, sensitive, or confidential. This makes smart clothing’s data mining abilities extremely strong. This is compounded by the fact that this information can easily be posted on social media networks, making it available to not only “friends” of the user, but possibly also to unknown or untrusted parties. Furthermore, wearables are able to collect information discreetly, otherwise known as data mining, which results in the users not actually knowing what data is being collected.  This often means that users underestimate their privacy risks. In fact, a recent study showed that there is “a significant gap between reported concerns and actual users’ behaviors, reinforcing that users often sacrifice their privacy in exchange of benefits.” Put simply, the non-invasive biomedical, biochemical, and physical measurements of wearables have invasive implications for a user’s privacy. However, given the novelty of smart clothing, the extent of the impacts of these privacy concerns has not yet been fully understood. It is for this reason that empirical studies are necessary.

The same study collected a variety of online comments from users of wearables. Based on the consumer feedback, the study concluded that the primary privacy concerns are linked to the type of personal data that a given wearable device collects, stores, processes and shares. For example, there is a lower level of concern regarding smart accessories that are seen as a gadget (e.g. Fitbits), versus smart clothing that covers a large part of the body. Furthermore, embedded sensors, such as cameras and microphones, pick up data about the user and even people nearby, often without their awareness or consent. The nature of this data is frequently personal and confidential, which implicates privacy issues, especially with respect to surveillance. Other functions of wearables, such as heart rate monitors, glucometers, and activity trackers, can also be intrusive.

Interestingly, even though users perceived wrist-mounted devices as a non-invasive accessory from a privacy perspective, the study found a high associated risk. Indeed, there have been findings of an increased feeling of safety and confidence due to the user’s dependence on this type of wearable to track both biomedical data as well as daily movements that assist the user, such as the user’s location when in an unknown area. The ability to track location seems appropriate because of the convenience of having GSP at the ready. However, the communication of a user’s location information, without the control of the user, poses a substantial threat because once location is sensed and stored, it can then be shared online, in real time, through live social media feeds. Yet, given an appearance that is akin to a watch or a bracelet, wearables’ presence is often unnoticed, which means that the underlying privacy risk is not seen as a concern on a daily basis. Rather, a user more acutely senses its convenience benefits. This is in stark contrast with the more common smartphone, with which the user has a more conscious interaction.

In fact, integration is one of the primary selling points of smart clothing, which allows users to synchronize their clothing with their phones for the sake of convenience. From a privacy perspective, however, this means that all of the implications associated with smartphones are then added to the list of concerns regarding smart clothing. For example, more technologically-advanced smart clothing inventions could have access to a user’s photos, contacts, bank information, and applications, making all of the data, in addition to the collected biometrics, vulnerable to being shared publicly. Another notable example is that embedded speech recognition applications in both smartphones and smart clothing allow the convenience of hands-free interaction. However, the heightened sensitivity that is needed to be able to pick up on such demands means that even when a user is not alone, a potentially confidential conversation between the user and another party can be captured and stored, once again without knowledge or consent.

The above suggests two concerning points about the privacy risk associated with smart clothing. First, users are already anxious about a host of privacy issues, but the (perhaps more noticeable) benefits offered by these devices causes them to become more willing to sacrifice their privacy. Second, even though users have articulated some concerns, these are often misdirected or underestimated. This means that users do not know precisely what to worry about, and are therefore ill-equipped to protect themselves. Indeed, new applications, such as facial recognition software embedded in smart technologies offer such a profound sense of convenience and marketable novelty that consumers willingly allow a device to repeatedlycapture and store every inch of their face. This misplaced sense of trust in smart technologies, and particularly smart clothing, presents a significant barrier to technological advancement, as users’ engagement is difficult to predict.

This is the second post in the Toronto Wearables Series in IP Osgoode’s IPIlogue.

One of Wearable Technology’s Most Prominent Homes: Toronto

Toronto is quickly becoming a leader in the wearable technology industry, and is home to several innovative start-ups that have been very active in this field. In particular, there has been a focus on using wearable technology in relation to fitness and medical needs, with biometrics being a primary indicator. 

 To support this activity, Toronto has seen a rise in several organizations aimed at raising awareness regarding the conversation around wearable technology. FashionTech Toronto, for example, is “a platform to connect innovators and leaders in the fashion and tech fields”, and hosts multiple meet-ups to facilitate this interaction. Electric Runway, which originally started as “a wearable technology runway show curated for the Maker Festival in Toronto” has now grown into an international brand and expanded to hosting speaking engagements, consulting, and creating public engagement through their considerable online presence.  We Are Wearables also has an active Toronto chapter and has a mission to “foster adoption and facilitate innovation in wearable tech by providing a platform for the entrepreneurs, start-ups and organizations who are already making this happen and a place for those new to the space to be inspired to take action.” 

 

As such, it is no surprise that Toronto start-ups have recognized the flourishing wearable technology community and have begun creating innovative designs in response. Blue Block Glasses serves as a prime example. The Toronto-based start-up gave Team Canada’s freestyle skiers 30 pairs of Somnitude eyewear before the team went to PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The company recognized that athletes need a significant amount of rest in order to perform well; however, the common presence of blue light in daily lives (from phones and other screens) has the potential to significantly impact sleeping patterns. If the glasses are worn a few hours before bed, it helps supress melatonin, which is the hormone that induces sleep. Due to the delay that is caused by the suppression, there is a shift in the circadian phase of sleep to later in the night, which allows athletes (or others with similar lifestyles) to overcome jetlag much more quickly. 

 Nymi is another disruptive Toronto start-up, being the first wearable technology to actually identify users by using their heartbeat. This identification allows their heartbeat to act as a passcode to connect to computers, phones, smart office technology, and possibly driverless cars in the future. Furthermore, the start-up partnered with MasterCard and is working on a method of completing a credit card transaction using the heartbeat indicator. 

Of course, all of these applications have legal implications in relation to intellectual property, privacy, etc. and have to comply with related regulations. So, the question becomes, are our regulations well-equipped to deal with this new wave of technology, or do we need to think more critically about updates?

Nōwn POS Delivers What Customers Want Most: Loyalty

We are so fortunate to have crossed paths with Kristin Dorsey, the Director of Marketing and Communications at Nōwn POS, at the recent FashionTech TO event. 

Nōwn POS has developed a technology that has the potential to revolutionize retail through customer loyalty. By enabling its system to recognize all Nown customers and display their name, picture, and purchase history, customers can feel valued, which will in turn enrich their shopping experience. At a time in which everything is fast-paced and efficiency is the ultimate goal, Nōwn POS has found a way to capture a single moment and allow a customer to feel appreciated, while balancing that with efficiency. Indeed, the technology is the result of conversations between Kristin and Nōwn POS’s in-house designer about what merchants and consumers would want from this solution.  They discussed the consumer experience — being able to walk into your favourite coffee shop or retail store and be known, hence the name of the business. In February of 2017, Kristin sat down with the CEO of Nōwn POS to talk about how there should be a focus on personalized customer experience and advocated for a change in the direction and the goal of the company. This narrowed focus has certainly resulted in a notable benefit for consumers. 

 Furthermore, retailers can also benefit from this technology because they can truly know their customers. This can inevitably streamline sales and avoid a one-size-fits-all selling approach. Their technology is a win-win. 

 Of course, all of this came after significant demographic and societal research into how the market operates. While “loyalty programs” have become a common marketing strategy, it is not in the best interest of a business to encourage a customer base that simply wants free rewards. Rather, businesses need to change the behaviour and emotion of their customers, which can be effectively done by remembering a customer’s favourite items and additional details of her profile. Indeed, the majority of the population almost expects this to a certain degree because of innovations like Amazon, which have incorporated this element of personalization into their operations.  

 From a legal perspective, it is important to note that Nōwn POS doesn’t collect invasive personal data (such as a shopper’s home address) but rather collects shopping patterns for the sake of a consumer profile, not a personal one. 

In the same way that Nōwn POS is bridging a gap between an in-person shopping experience with the more personalized online experience, it is important for legal professionals to also bridge a gap between the law and engineering, tech, and fashion, in order to protect helpful technologies like this, especially from the directly applicable privacy regulations. 

 

 

AccessAR: A Pioneer in Online Retail

As one of the many benefits we reaped from attending the Fashion Tech TO event a few weeks ago, we recently had the opportunity to catch up with Chrissy Gow, the Co-founder and CEO of AccessAR. We had the pleasure of seeing Chrissy, along with her Co-founder and CPO, Joscelyn Sevier, perform a demo of their technology at the event. 

AccessAR aims “to foster an environment of creative collaboration where design thinkers and engineers challenge each other to build better solutions.”  In doing this, they have created a SaaS-based augmented reality framework for fashion e-commerce. At this stage, users are able to interact with the product to virtually try on sunglasses, in real-time (taking the user’s lighting and environment into account) and then have a directlink to purchase. This essentially makes one of the most difficult purchases not only easy, but also enjoyable. 

The Founders’ inspiration came from the fact that the first generation of this technology already existed, with the widely used Instagram and Snapchat filters, but this was limited. Indeed, it had not yet been integrated into fashion, or e-commerce, for that matter. It was at this point where the company truly harnessed their mission and created change, allowing technological improvement.

AccessAR is also multifaceted, as it has the potential to assist and disrupt several industries. For example, the technology also allows architects to use its high quality, hyper-realistic, 3D renders. Additionally, next steps include using the technology for jewellery and watches, and enabling high performance web-based experiences.  

As far as the legal world is involved, AccessAR seems well situated and aware of the relevant legal climate with respect to its technology. Nevertheless, there often exists a knowledge gap between the fields of fashion, engineering, and law. As a result, it is imperative upon those in law to understand such applications and be able to clearly predict its high potential. It is at this juncture, where commercialization of the technology offers the highest benefits.

Given AccessAR’s high potential, we are going to follow up with Chrissy by checking out their creative space vis-à-vis a soon-to-be-announced video series. Stay tuned. 

The First Knitted Concrete Structure

A team from ETH Zurich in Switzerland has developed technology that allows them to knit textiles to create architectural structures. 

The knitting pattern behind their structure, KnitCandela, was designed by a computer. During a 36-hour process, an industrial knitting machine followed this computer-generated pattern to create four strips of textile. When putting the structure together, the pieces of textile were raised and tensioned between temporary frames. Then, a cement mixture was sprayed on the structure to strengthen it.  

The implications of this knitting technology are essential in a time where we are seeking more sustainable forms of design. This is the first time knitting has been used to create a structure in architecture. The team's research has demonstrated that just like 3D printing, this new application of knitting can simplify construction and cut down on materials, labour, and waste. 

The flexibility of the textile will allow for complex shapes to take form, thus modernizing architecture and providing designers with a new application to consider in their creative works. The reliance on industrial knitting machines also makes the process more accessible for future applications, as the process still depends on conventional technology. 

 KnitCandela is currently on display in the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneoin Mexico City.

This article was prepared by Summer Lewis, Chief Communications Director at sabasamanian.com

3D Fittings To Make Online Shopping Even Easier

A 2018 Alphawise survey indicated that approximately 81% of respondents stated they had purchased clothing online, as opposed to a brick and mortar store. This number is up from 71% in 2010.

Now, technology has the power to further increase this statistic. Indeed, 3D body-scanning could make shopping even easier. This emerging technology “would allow consumers to use cameras and lasers on their mobile devices to capture precise body measurements”. This would not only instil confidence in a buyer who is shopping online, but could also minimize returns and exchanges due to a poor fit: a win for both the consumer and the buyer.

Technology, once again, has the power to disrupt and streamline an industry.

On October 29, I had the privilege to attend an event hosted by Fashion Tech Toronto, which showcased leaders in the fashion and technology space and allowed entrepreneurs to tell us about their inventions. Among these creatives, were the founders of Passen, named after the German word for “fit”. Their technology was geared to do exactly this, and a demonstration of their product proved how easy and fast 3D scanning would be.

As a law student, however, questions about privacy implications quickly filled my mind and I became immensely intrigued at how the company is handling such concerns.

So, stay tuned for more updates on Passen, as well as Fashion Tech Toronto, for answers to such questions.

Therapeutic Clothing that Hugs

Sensewear is the newest innovation in smart clothing that is making a social impact. 

Emanuela Corti and Ivan Parati created a collection of smart clothing to address a gap in the fashion-tech industry. Their designs aim to help those affected by sensory processing disorder (SPD). Individuals with SPD, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, have complications with processing everyday stimuli. Hypersensitivity, for example, is a common symptom. Individuals may have an enhanced sensitivity to sounds, smells, and touch. 

 If sensitivity to physical contact is heightened, imagine how the texture of clothing and its stitching and labels can become a source of pain during daily wear. 

Corti and Parati looked for several solutions to this issue including an alternative 3D knitting process and a method that could combine therapeutic objects and clothing. At the core of their collection is a smart t-shirt that collects data on heart rate, breath frequency, and movement. This indicates the wearer's stress level, which will trigger the functions of the other garments. One of these garments is "sensewear for emotional emergencies". It appears to be a scarf, but the individual can also wear it as a pull-over. Once the piece is worn as a pull-over, it uses deep touch pressure (DTP) therapy to mimic a hug. 

Their design has pioneered a new iteration of health technology that can reduce the symptoms of SPD. Health technology in smart clothing is often linked to fitness gear, such as yoga pants that provide haptic feedback to muscles to correct positions. However, this development is a compromise between style and scientific utility. The technology is inconspicuous and allows for a dose of physical therapy during daily activities. The duo hopes to expand their technology into interior design in order to tackle the much larger issue of how to improve the discomfort individuals with SPD feel from overstimulation. 

This post was written by Summer Lewis, first-year law student at Osgoode Hall, Toronto.

Taking the Lead - Philip Beesley

The intersectionality of fashion, technology, and design is only now starting to be explored. Philip Beesley, however, has been active in this field for some time now.

Philip Beesley is a practicing visual artist, architect, and Professor in Architecture at the University of Waterloo and Professor of Digital Design and Architecture & Urbanism at the European Graduate School. Beesley's work is widely cited in contemporary art and architecture, focused in the rapidly expanding technology and culture of responsive and interactive systems.

Beesley was educated in visual art at Queen's University, in technology at Humber College, and in architecture at the University of Toronto. His Toronto-based practice, Philip Beesley Architect Inc., operates in partnership with Rolf Seifert and the Waterloo-based Adaptive Systems Group, and in numerous collaborations including longstanding exchanges with couture designer Iris van Herpen and futurist Rachel Armstrong. 

Beesley’s ground-breaking exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, in collaboration with van Herpen explored how intelligence and technology are changing industries. This enabled these two visionaries to bring their worlds to one exhibit and demonstrate how their respective industries are transforming.

Through the use of 3D printing and responsive design, these two “kindred spirits” are taking the lead.

Take the tour.