I am super lucky that in Canada, we have some of the most influential companies in the smart clothing market. I had the chance to sit down and discuss with Hannah Fung, the Marketing director Myant inc., about their vision of the future and their contribution to the smart textile industry.
It was also very interesting to hear her point of view from a marketer’s perspective and all the challenges that comes with marketing a product like smart textiles and smart clothes.
S.C : Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get interested in smart textile, AI, remote patient monitoring, and human connectedness?
H.F : I have an engineering background. Funny enough, I never actually worked as an engineer. I aspent most of my career working on analytics & insights for companies somehow related one way to another to medical devices, MedTech, healthcare, or pharmaceutical. I guess healthcare has always been on my radar.
One thing led to another. I took the position of marketing director at Myant inc. Working on something that feels like the future is not easy every day. However, I like the idea that I help create a more optimistic future. For me, this work has meaning and I can’t think of doing anything else.
S.C : Can you tell us a little more about Myant inc’s positioning in the IoT/Smart clothing market?
Myant inc works at the intersection of so many disciplines. We are end-to-end solution providers. Some companies may be able to put together some resources to create a prototype. However, we can provide an A to Z solution because we reunited the whole process under our roof.
Back when Myant inc was created and even now, there weren’t any other companies that had the expertise to make all the various disciplines smart clothes or smart textile require. From the fibers to the patterns, or the electrical components, everything that is involved in the creation of smart textiles, we do that either in-house or with the help of very close providers. Indeed, a part of it relies on textile manufacturing but also data science.
As a matter of fact, you need data scientists to figure out what to do with the data. But, you also need specialists in biology and kinesiology to understand how to make sense of the data that was extracted and how to make it useful to people. Then, once that is done, app developers can work on the platforms that can convey the right message in the right forms to people.
S.C : Myant Inc. often uses the term “Textile Computing”. What is it exactly?
We have a very broad vision of what we want to accomplish. It’s not only about changing the way people connect to healthcare. It’s about giving power to the textiles that surround you so that you can learn more about yourself and optimize your life thanks to them.
And we’re not only talking about clothes. Textiles are everywhere in your life. You can find textile on your bed, your chair, your couch, your car. If you want to find a way to connect to the human body, isn’t using something that is already everywhere in our life the best way to do so?
Think about your phone or your laptop. We tend to organize our lives around them to use the technology. What we are doing is, on the contrary, embedding technology into something that we already interact with, so that we don’t even have to think about it. We want smart textiles to become a bidirectional interface for the human body.
When you think about it, textile computing is quite a transformative approach. The real power of textile computing happens when most of us are connected most of the time.
S.C : You just launched Phase 2 of Skiin, Myant Inc’s smart clothing line. Do you market smart clothing the same way as in any other markets or are there any specificities tied to the smart clothing industry?
We’ve been testing the alpha version for a while but now, it’s finally ready to go public and is available on our website. By knitting the ability to sense the body into everyday clothing, Skiin provides people and their loved ones a connection to their well-being.
At the moment, Skiin’s main customers are people who have a real need for a non-stop connection such as people whose parents have dementia for instance, or overweight people who need to be careful about their vitals. Companies might also be interested to monitor the well-being and performances of their employees.
Smart textiles and smart clothing follow the same innovation curve as the Internet of things. Just like smartphones, it starts with a niche and early adopters. But the dream we have will truly happen when we reach a certain connectedness critical mass.
One last thing, the main challenges I’ve been facing though is that most of the time: consumers have no idea what smart textiles can actually do. The thing is explaining what smart textiles are to people with 2-second mental space is not easy.
S.C : How do you see the smart clothing market? What are the opportunities and the main roadblocks?
H.F : Part of what we do is building the infrastructure for the smart clothing industry so that anyone can innovate. There are many great researchers and academics who can create smart clothes. But finding a factory that can take the prototype and mass-produce is still a true challenge. That’s why we are working hard on defining industry standards and processes that make prototyping easier and scaling possible.
With Digital Textile Exchange, a digital manufacturing platform we created, we can connect a network of stakeholders in the advanced textile innovation value-chain.
In other words, if you want to create a smart clothe, with Digital Textile Exchange, you could have access and be introduced to suppliers who have the capability to create your product.
Another major roadblock is the lack of skilled candidates. The technical expertise from a knitting perspective doesn’t really exist out there in the world, which will make the recruitment an issue in the future if we do nothing. So, we work closely with institutes so that they can have access to the technology and start experimenting. But by doing so, we are also creating for us and the industry a true talent pipeline.
For more information on Skiin, feel free to visit skiin.com .