No, health sensing clothes aren't heading to AT&T stores

By Brian Dolan
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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsLast Friday Forbes wrote that AT&T Stores plan to start selling "clothes that track the wearer's heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs" similar to the health monitoring clothing that the NFL used to evaluate potential players earlier this year. While it may be true that AT&T may have plans to -- some day -- add cellular connectivity to clothes for health tracking clothing, the mobile operator told MobiHealthNews that it has no plans to sell them in its stores.

In June AT&T announced that it was working to embed cellular connectivity in Zephyr Technology's physiological Bioharness monitor device, which currently offers Bluetooth connectivity, but as of today a cellular-enabled version of the monitor is not yet available. Zephyr worked with Under Armour to create the E39 health sensing shirts that the Forbes article refers to, but those aren't cellular enabled yet either -- also Bluetooth.

The Forbes article was based on an interview with Glenn Lurie, who is president of AT&T's Emerging Devices division. Lurie seemed to be speculating about future devices the carrier may support -- perhaps some were in the near term -- and  Forbes characterized health sensing clothes as the devices that were "next up" for AT&T sales channels.

"I can see where the Forbes piece is a bit confusing," an AT&T spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email. "Glenn’s point was that we are looking at all kinds of opportunities, including clothing that offers trackable technology. We are not saying we’ll be selling this in our stores (though that’s easy to infer from [Forbes writer Elizabeth] Woyke’s language), rather, we will be looking to sell connections for these devices."

Unfortunately, the story that spread from the Forbes article was just the opposite. Headlines from other publications that picked up the story: "AT&T plans to sell clothes that track your vital signs wirelessly." "AT&T to sell connected clothing." "AT&T to Begin Selling Clothing with Embedded Wireless Health Sensors." "AT&T diversifies portfolio with E39 shirt." There's more and they are all untrue.

My favorite reference to this story came from a post over at the New York Times blog this morning. In a story called "Could 'Smart' Textiles Prove Toxic?" the NYTimes wrote: "Asked about the potential recycling of AT&T’s 'bio-tracking clothes,' a company spokeswoman, Dawn Benton, wrote, 'At this point in time we don’t have a comment or insight on this topic.'"

That's probably because no such clothes exist yet.

Might AT&T stores one day sell cellular-enabled clothing? Perhaps. It's definitely not the type of device that's "next up" for AT&T Store shelves though.

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