Despite investment from major brands like Google, Levi’s, and Under Armour, smart clothing has grown relatively slowly in recent years. Lack of awareness among consumers is one reason for its limited adoption, along with high prices and concerns over durability, data accuracy, and privacy.
Listed below are the key regulatory trends impacting the smart clothing theme, as identified by GlobalData.
Apparel is a heavily scrutinised industry. The quality of textile products is evaluated multiple times at different stages of the production process. Quality assessment typically considers the materials, systems, and services involved in the manufacturing of clothing. To operate effectively, smart clothing makers must comply with quality and trade mandates across various countries, including the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) in the US and the European Union’s (EU) General Product Safety Directive.
Two apparel industry veterans have established a non-profit organisation called the Smart Textile Alliance, which aims to develop industry standards for smart clothing. This development should aid start-ups to navigate the regulatory nuances of various geographic markets.
Smart clothes generate vast amounts of user data, including location, health metrics, and app activity, which is gathered by sensors embedded in the garments. Smart clothing vendors store this data on cloud servers. However, vendors, their affiliates, and advertisers could potentially misuse the server-stored data. Data privacy legislation such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Japan’s Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) aim to restrict vendors’ ability to sell data for profit without the user’s consent.
Regulations mandate that smart clothing vendors have transparent privacy policies stipulating the purpose and use of user-generated data. They must also give users the ability to request, access, and suspend their data from privacy centres. Adopting an extraterritorial approach, GDPR and APPI have forced vendors to process locally any data generated within the EU and Japan, respectively, regardless of where vendors are headquartered. We expect these policies to be further refined as consumer adoption of smart clothing increases.
This is an edited extract from the Smart Clothing (Wearable Tech) – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.