Take-off time for smart clothing

Clothing makers are betting big on a future where people will no longer carry mobile technology but have it integrated into their favourite jacket or bag

So-called "smart clothing" where technology is integrated directly into garments will be a multi-billion dollar industry in less than a decade, according to experts.

Also referred to as wearable computing, the trend could see a mobile phone or personal digital assistant integrated into a jacket. Some such products already exist, such as a snowboarding jacket shown off by Apple and Burton's in 2003 which included controls for an iPod, but are not generally seen as commercially viable.

Major players in the textile industry such as South Korea are already investing in the technology. Hwang Kyu-yearn, an official at the South Korean Commerce and Industry Ministry said this week: "The research and development of smart clothing can't be left up to the market only, because of its high risk. The Government has taken the role of offsetting this risk," according to the Associated Press.

South Korea's textile and clothing industry generates billions of pounds worth of exports, so it cannot afford to fall behind in the wearable computing market. Its Government has begun partnering with local companies on research and development work, with a view to winning 20 percent of the market. It has estimated that the wearable computing market could be worth $7bn (£3.7bn) by 2014.

Potentially, business workers could be as large a market as consumers, if the wearable computing industry can find ways of integrating mobility products into our clothes.

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