Wardrobe monitor, a smart choice!

August 04, 2007 - Australia

Can’t remember what you wore to a special party with friends but don’t want to be seen in the same outfit when you catch up with them again?

If you thought that this was reason enough to buy new clothes, researchers from the University of South Australia have been developing a smart solution for managing your wardrobe that could save you money on last minute shopping sprees.

Researchers from UniSA’s Wearable Computer Laboratory have been developing garment integrated electronic technology that can tell you what you wore to the last party, where you’ve worn it, what accessories you wore with it, and more.

It can even help you choose a suitable outfit from your smart wardrobe for your next get together with friends, according to Professor Bruce Thomas, Director of the Wearable Computer Laboratory.

While not the first to think of this technology, Prof Thomas points out that his researchers are the first worldwide to develop smart garment management technology that works.

“Our technology includes a computerised wardrobe with electronic hangers and garments embedded with tiny electronics that enable wireless monitoring, data downloads and many other features,” Prof Thomas said.

“The smart wardrobe has a touch screen on the outside and conductive metal bands spanning the hanging rail inside, with wires connecting it to a computer in the base of the wardrobe. When electronic hangers, each with their own ID and metal connection, are placed on the rail, the metal band in the rail detects the hangers and their smart garments, which incorporate conductive material and integrated electronics,” he said.

“Through this connection the computer identifies, for example, that hanger 123 has suit 45 on it, and monitors where and when it has been worn, and even how many times it has been worn since it was last washed or dry-cleaned,” Prof Thomas said.

Computer and information science PhD student Aaron Toney has developed an alert function that tells smart wardrobe users when garments need to be dry-cleaned.
“The average suit should be cleaned after between eight and 12 wearings but people often lose track of when their clothes were last dry-cleaned and how often they have been worn since then,” Toney said. “Our wardrobe monitor can record garment usage, as well as deliveries to and pickups from drycleaners.

“The technology can also help people make the most of accessorizing and mixing their wardrobe. It can be connected to an autonomous fashion butler on the internet, which can suggest clothing choices for casual or formal outings with accessories to match,” Toney said.

For the person on the move, the technology can be adapted to preload news, music and daily schedules into smart garments.

And it could be the answer to those annoying mobile phone calls that interrupt important meetings. While the silent vibrating function is less intrusive, taking the phone out to check who’s calling can still disrupt proceedings. With integrated electronics, wearers of the smart suit can determine the importance of a call by observing a tiny flashing LED light that can be seen in the cuff of their jacket.

Smart clothing can also be used for monitoring heart or respiratory function, other vital statistics and activity levels, making it useful for at home outpatient care and for people with dementia.

The research is being undertaken by Toney and final year computer systems engineering student Wynand Marais, under the supervision of Prof Thomas.