NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- "Smart garments," or technology-enabled clothing, is an industry poised to explode in popularity in the next few years, with several well-known sports and clothing brands in a position to take advantage of this up-and-coming category.
Gartner (IT) research direction Angela McIntyre said figuring out the potential shipment numbers is possible, but at this point it is still too early to determine which companies will dominate the smart garment category.
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However, it is a good bet Ralph Lauren (RL) , Under Armour (UA) , Adidas (ADDYY) and L Brands' (LB) Victoria's Secret are already experimenting with smart garments of various types and will play a major role as the segment develops.
McIntyre is forecasting the number of smart garments shipped will balloon from about 100,000 in 2014 to more than 26 million by 2016. If this prediction holds true, smart garments will rocket to the top of the wearable product category surpassing sport watches, fitness bands and chest monitors.
Gartner said much of the growth will, literally, come on the backs of relatively few users. Athletes and gym rats need to constantly change their dirty and sweat-soaked shirts and socks, requiring each person to buy several articles of clothing so they will always be ready to go.
Sensoria's fitness socks and app.
Smart garments work by weaving bio-medical sensors into the material. The data are sent via Bluetooth to a smartphone app where the user can check and track heart rate, pulse, running pace and even stride. Gartner said the market is poised for growth because this clothing has just left the testing stage and is working its way into markets where the apparel is primarily popular among athletes and coaches. So the next big customer is the consumer.
McIntyre expects this situation to quickly evolve.
"Starting next year, clothing products with more mass market appeal will start to appear," she said, adding there will be more big brands joining the fray.
However, it's not just the big boys who are competing in this new category. The Redmond, Wash.-based Sensoria, is now selling three garments online: socks, a bra and a fitness t-shirt.