Problems and prospects of digitised technologies in fashion

Problems and prospects of digitised technologies in fashion

Smart clothing and smart garments have a significant contribution to health and well-being and quality of life through the integration of IoT along with AI.

The fashion industry is one most significant manufacturing industries that generate an economy of 3 trillion dollars and contributes to 2 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP). The fashion industry plays a crucial role in the design, manufacturing, and selling of clothes and garments. Moreover, the industry encompasses diverse sectors, including fabrication of raw materials, manufacture of fashion clothes and garments by designers, commercialisation, and marketing communication. However, according to United Nations, the fashion industry has a lack of concern for social and environmental issues as it produces 8–10 per cent of the global CO2 emissions, consumes 79 trillion litres of water per year, contributes to 35 per cent of micro plastic pollution, and generates > 92 million tonne of textiles waste per year.

1. Introduction

The fashion industry is a contributor to the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) for social, economic, and environmental sustainability, and it needs to achieve the following major SDGs goal: build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation; Goal :ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; and goal: take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

      The fashion sector must foster innovation and build intelligent infrastructure using digitalised technologies such as IoT, AI, block chain, AR, and VR. These emerging technologies are capable of establishing sustainable industrialisation through their unique and intelligent features. The European Commission report concluded that, in the future, the utilisation of clothing with smart garments will be on a large scale. For the same, innovative garments, fabrics, and clothes need to be fashionable, flexible, reliable, and smart. This can be achieved due to the availability of miniature electronic chips and sensors and also due to the availability of energy-efficient connectivity protocols. Fundamentally, fashion is a type of self-expression through clothing, footwear, lifestyle, garment, makeup, hair, and body posture in a specific time and place and a specific environment. So, it concluded that, in fashion along with clothes, the development of smart garments and footwear is also part of it.

     Smart clothing and smart garments have a significant contribution to health and well-being and quality of life through the integration of IoT along with AI. In terms of health status, physical activities, and daily activities, these two technologies will strengthen and enhance real-time monitoring of the actions of athletes, patients, babies, and the elderly. AI can be utilised for fashion trend forecasting, dress recommendation based on environmental parameters and health prediction, and so on. Furthermore, the combination of IoT and block chain allows for effective real-time tracking and tracing of fashion activities, which helps envision the quantity of material consumed and produced, and for the establishment of a circular economy in fashion. To experience the product in terms of fitting, size, and colour selection is possible with AR technology, and this technology assists in experiencing the product from any location in the world through mobile. VR technology assists in the product development of an individual and fosters retail experience through the virtual world. As per the observation in the previous studies, it has been identified that limited studies have discussed the significance of all digital technologies implementation in the fashion industry. In a few studies, the researchers have discussed the implementation of digital technologies separately, but no study addressed all the digital technologies such as IoT, AI, block chain, and AR/VR under one umbrella. It has been observed that leveraging digital technologies could significantly contribute to achieving the SDGs. Technological breakthroughs have significantly impacted how economies function and how people, society, and the environment interact. The ability to sense, analyse, interact with, and alter their physical environment with minimal human intervention is a critical innovation in the fashion industry.

1.1. Contribution and structure of the study

       With motivation from prior remarks, we present this review to prioritise the significance and application of digitalised technologies’ impact in the fashion industry with advanced connectivity. The contribution of the study is as follows:

  • The basic concepts and significance of digitalisation in the fashion industry are discussed in detail concerning sustainability
  • The progress of individual digitalised technologies in the fashion industry are discussed for smart clothing, forecasting of fashion trends, dress recommendation based on environmental conditions, prediction of health, real-time supply chain, and fashion and shopping experience
  • The limitations of the previous studies that implemented these technologies in the fashion industry are discussed and also suggested recommendations for future work.

2. Methodology of the study


This section shows the methodology followed in conducting the analysis regarding the progress and significance of digitalisation in the fashion industry. As a part of this, we have obtained the articles from the Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, and IEEE Xplore. The articles are selected on the basis of inclusion and exclusion criteria. In the following, we have discussed criteria that are implemented to exclude the articles: (i) Non peer-reviewed research articles are not examined, as the significance of research content in it is low (ii) The articles that lack the abstracts are also not examined (iii) The research articles that consider similar methodologies/techniques for the same problem statement are also not considered (iv) Thesis and dissertation works of the post-graduation and graduation are also not examined

Figure 2 illustrates the distribution of the articles year wise; it has been observed that the major paper portions of the paper considered in this study are 24 per cent (2017) and 26 per cent (2020). Sustainable Production and Consumption, Pattern Recognition Letters, Computer in Industry, Journal of King Saud University, Information and Sciences, Journal of Manufacturing Systems, Electronics, IEEE Communication Magazine, IEEE Systems Journal, IEEE Access, IEEE Sensors, Journal, IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics, Waste Management, Sensors, Applied Sciences, Computers in Human Behaviour, Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Computers and Industrial Engineering, Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, Journal of Sustainability, and International Journal of Innovative Computing and Applications are the journals that have been considered in this study.

3. Digitalisation in fashion

      According to a Nielsen survey, 73 percent of Millennials demand sustainable clothing that is both socioeconomically and environmentally sustainable. Digitalisation in fashion boosts the implementation of robust, innovative, sustainable, and real-time infrastructure that is tailored to the requirements of the customer concerning comfortability, flexibility, and reliability in a sustainable manner. It has been discovered that utilising digital technology can greatly assist in accomplishing sustainability. The digitalisation empowers to visualise the real-time information of smart cloth and other garments on the virtual network. This indeed assists in analysing the data and applying different analytics methods to obtain the needful insights from it. Moreover, the areas in which the digitalisation of fashion can be implemented as follows:

(i) IoT. IoT refers to physical things that are equipped with sensors, computing power, and programming to communicate with other devices and systems through the Internet or wireless communication networks. With the assistance of IoT, real-time monitoring of fashion industry activities (product tracking and feedback system), health monitoring of individuals (athletics, patients, elder, and babies) through IoT-enabled clothing and wearables, and implementation of the security system through smart clothing and wearables can be achieved.

(ii) AI. Artificial intelligence uses computers and machines to replicate the human mind’s problem-solving and decision-making abilities. IoT technology generates a huge amount of data through the sensors embedded in clothing and other wearable devices. In the 21st century, data is a significant resource for performing analytics for obtaining insightful results. In addition to this, AI can be utilised to predict the health status of the elder, athletes, patients, and babies based on real-time sensor data. Furthermore, AI is useful for recommending dresses based on environmental conditions and also for forecasting trends of customers.

(iii) Blockchain. Block chain is distributed ledger technology that has shown a significant impact on various applications to boost transparency, security, and immutability. Block chain in the fashion supply chain resolves the concerns like information asymmetry, visibility, credibility, and traceability. Block chain empowers to implement the circular economy in which discarded clothes are used as raw material for the production of new clothes.

(iv) AR and VR. AR is a technologically upgraded version of the real world that is created through the integration of digital visual elements, music, or other types of sensory stimulation. VR employs computer modelling and simulation to allow a person to engage with a simulated three-dimensional (3D) visual or another sensory world. AR in the fashion industry is utilised for the customer to experience the product that is developed, whereas VR is utilised for the development of the product based on customer needs. 

4. IoT in fashion

4.1. Smart clothing and garments

The rapid fusion of textiles and electronics presently permits the smooth and widespread integration of sensors into textiles, as well as the production of conductive yarn. Smart fabrics, which can interface with smartphones to process biometric data such as temperature, respiration, heart rate, stress, movement, or even hormone levels, have the potential to bring in a new era in retail. Modern medicine, from prevention to sophisticated therapies, is built on earlier, accurate, and real diagnoses, supported by robust monitoring of the treatments. Smart clothing is capable of providing real-time sensor data with accuracy and reliability. Smart clothing is crafted by integrating smart wearables into garments, and it is a significant prospect for the future interface between the physical and digital worlds, replacing or extending smartphones and other portable connected gadgets.

The role of wearable devices in smart clothing is critical; currently, in smart clothing, wearable 2.0 is adapted to connect to numerous devices and utilise cloud services to improve user life experience. Wearable 2.0 with smart clothing is efficient in terms of accuracy, comfort, usability, washability, and real-time monitoring assistance, which enhances the quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE). The concept of wearable 2.0 with smart clothing has been demonstrated, where the different activities can be implemented through smart clothing. Smart clothing with wearable 2.0 can be utilised to monitor chronic disease, train auxiliary athletes, and provide emotional care:

(i)Monitoring Chronic Disease. Patients with chronic diseases wear smart clothes in their everyday life to acquire noninvasive physiological data. This physiological data is logged in the cloud server to process and analyse health conditions. The system provides customers with individualised healthcare services in a variety of ways based on their diagnosed health state.

(ii)Training of Auxiliary Athletes. The effective monitoring of athletes during rigorous training plays a crucial role, as smart clothing with sensory system assists in detecting fatigue in any area of the body. Three-axis acceleration, gyroscope, and electromyography (EMG) sensors are crucial to detecting movement and muscle strain of athletes.

(iii)Providing Emotional Care. Emotional care is especially beneficial for single parents, long-distance truck drivers, and people suffering from mental illnesses. The system can deliver emotional care based on physiological data connected to the user’s emotions. When the system detects a user in a negative mood, it provides emotional feedback such as voice reminders, tuning appropriate music, or playing selected video content.

The architecture of smart clothing for healthcare applications with cloud services has been determined. The front-end system comprises hardware and communication subsystem (sensors, communication protocol, and signal collection components). The user interface of high experience only presents in the front-end to update the health and emotional status of an individual to the family members and local health providers through communication protocol (Wi-Fi; BLE). In addition, the real-time health data from the front-end is logged on the cloud server through the communication gateway. The updated data on the cloud data center can be accessed by the medical advisor and family members and can avail emergency and medical aid in case it is an emergency.

The designing of smart clothing with sensors, electrodes, and communication protocol is presented as follows: the materials that are specifically utilised to build smart clothing with flexibility, comfortability, and durability. A study has presented the raw material that is specifically utilised to develop smart clothing. The textile material is chosen for designing smart clothing as it is flexible, soft, and curable according to the body. The nanowire growth and device fabrication have been done. All the sensors in the smart clothing are enclosed and shielded with textile clothes, and the electrodes are covered under clothing. In addition, these sensors are charged with a small-scale battery to obtain physical sensor data, and opportunistic contacts allow the acquisition of the sensor data during the movement. The only limitations till now in smart clothing are completely washable and flexible electronics that can be fit into the textile materials. The idea of developing a resultant membrane-like substance that acts as sensors and feels like the skin is a novel approach to developing biosensors. The invention of a Gecko-based dry adhesive with conductive capability offers favourable outcomes for monitoring biosignals from the wearer’s skin in real time through high-activity periods. The different smart cloth products that are designed and marketed by different brands for various applications have been determined. The smart cloth is designed to sense heart rate variability (HRV), step count, sleeping assessment, calories burned, ECG, respiratory rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen saturation, temperature, respiratory, and body position. The different wireless communication protocols like Bluetooth, 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi are majorly integrated into smart cloth to transmit the biological parameters of the human.

     The connectivity is crucial in the context of IoT for guaranteeing reliable and robust communication between nodes and cloud servers. In smart clothing, the wireless communication protocol that consumes low power and works on a low-frequency band is preferred for minimising the effects on humans. The four different wireless communication protocol that works in the Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) band have been evolved. Long Range (LoRa), IEEE 802.15.4, 6LoWPAN, and BLE are the wireless communication that is feasible in smart clothing for data transmission. As in smart clothing, the amount of data that needs to be transmitted is the low bit rate, so this communication protocol is suitable for these applications.

4.2. Supply chain

In the fashion industry, the supply chain plays a crucial role, as it provides the flow of goods and services that are required to transform raw materials into the final product. The real-time monitoring and tracking of the supply chain are required in the fashion, as it empowers to visualise the activities that are carried out from beginning to end. The IoT-assisted traceability architecture that is proposed by for the fashion supply chain has been illustrated; this architecture comprises the following six stages: create, read, communicate, aggregate, consult/trace, and analyse. Under create a stage, the production of textile goods along with the integration of sensors and tags allows to trace in the supply chain. In the read stage, the sensors and tag data are read by the reader, including geographical location and environmental information that is sensed during tracking. In the communicate stage, the traced information is transmitted to the respective authority through the communication protocol embedded in it.

               The communication protocol is chosen concerning the size of data and transmission range. In the aggregate stage, the multiple data from various sources are reconciled into one database like a time-series database or data warehouse. Business operations management integrates visibility procedures, supply chain, monitoring, manufacture, and associated human resource activities with a consult/trace stage focus. Data is consumed and interpreted utilising analytics blocks in this stage to quantify maximum information metrics and indicators that can be used with enhanced visual analytics strategies to evaluate business procedures and produce revenue in the business framework with an emphasis on business methods.

The traceability technologies that are supported with IoT are barcodes, QR codes, which are better than UPC (Universal Product Code), and EAN (European Article Numbering). In a few studies, the barcode is integrated with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to establish a traceable identification system [45]. The advanced version of the barcode is a QR code, which is approved by ISO standards to use a traceability system during the supply chain [46]. IoT traceability technologies, on the other hand, typically comprise NFC, RFID, and Bluetooth low energy (BLE), which are now extensively accessible technologies that have been unified as built-in technologies by various smartphone makers. RFID system comprises two major components, a reader and a small radio frequency transponder (RF tag), which are utilised for the operation. 

Active RFID Tag Systems and Passive tags are two different types of RFID tags that operate on different frequencies and powers source. An active RFID tag is powered with a battery to communicate with the reader, and it is actively implemented in iLocate for a highly accurate object location solution. NFC is a subset of RFID technology that uses electromagnetic fields to communicate, and it operates at a 13.56 MHz frequency with bandwidth speeds of 424 kbits/s.

BLE is a low-latency, low-bandwidth, short-range protocol for IoT applications, its power consumption and latency are 10 times lower and 15 times lower than traditional Bluetooth, and latency is 15 times lower. It has been widely implemented in smart manufacturing and agri-food tracking systems. Along with these technologies, Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology has gained wide attention due to its low power consumption for long-range transmission. LoRa, narrow-band IoT (NB-IoT), and Sigfox are categorised as LPWAN technologies. LoRa network is an open-licensed communication protocol that transmits data to the range of 10–15 km.

      As a part of traceability, this technology is implemented in cattle tracking, and it is concluded that it captures the object traceability effectively in the study of bicycle location tracking and management system. NB-IoT is an LPWAN technology that can collaborate with LTE or GSM under licensed frequency bands for wide area coverage. In, NB-IoT is employed to build a smart parking system as part of the smart cities context. Sigfox was a forerunner in the LPWAN market, employing ultra narrow-band modulation on its physical layer while maintaining network protocols private. Sigfox offers a viable solution for integrating LPWAN technology in the recommended agriculture setting, where there is a natural demand for long-lasting battery sensors.

(The article is divided into two parts, with the first part presented here. The second part will be featured in the upcoming edition.)


About the authors:

Dr N Gokarneshan is from the Department of Textile Chemistry, SSM College of Engineering, Komarapalayam, Tamil Nadu, India.

Sona M Anton is from the Department of Fashion Design, Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, Chennai.

B Padma, R Hari Priya, AJ Abisha Raju, S Kavipriya, M Karthiga, are from the Department of Costume design, DR.SNS Rajalskshmi College of arts and science, Coimbatore.

S Umamageshwari is from the Department of Fashion Design, CSH, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Kattankalathur, Chennai.

Usha Kumari Ratna is from the Department of Textiles and Clothing, Avinashilingam Institute of higher education for women, Coimbatore.

V Sathyais from the Department of Fashion Design, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Ramapuram, Chennai.

P G Anandhakrishnan is from the Department of Fashion Design, Saveetha College of Architecture and Design, Chennai.

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