Next week Ralph Lauren will start selling a line of shirts, called PoloTech, which have embedded fitness tracking sensors, thanks to a partnership with OMsignal announced last year. The shirts will be available August 27 on Ralph Lauren's website as well as its flagship NYC store and its US Open store in Flushing, New York.
The PoloTech shirt has silver fibers woven into its fabric to help it track heart rate, heart variability, breathing depth and recovery, intensity of movement, energy output, stress levels, steps taken, and calories burned. The wearer must also keep a "black box" device on their person to receive the data collected by the sensors and to capture the activity-related data since that's where the accelerometer sits. The data is then transmitted to an iOS app called PoloTech running on an Apple Watch, iPhone, or iPod touch.
The PoloTech app also offers various workouts categorized as cardio, agility, and strengh workouts, which were designed by fitness company Galvanized. The data streaming from the shirt's sensors cause the app's video workouts to adapt to the wearer's performance in real-time. Exercise performance determines how intense the next part of the workout will be, which results in a customized workout capable of more than 10,000 combinations, according to the companies. The app features this live fitness monitoring, reporting and rating for exertion and effort.
The new sensor-enabled shirts from Ralph Lauren stand in contrast to Under Armour's software-focused approach to digital fitness. That company spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and Endomondo not too long after it slowly moved its focus away from its sensor-embedded shirts. Adidas is another athletic apparel company with a long history of sensor-embedded clothing projects and a recent $240 million digital fitness acquisition of its own -- Runtastic.
When news of this Ralph Lauren-OMsignal partnership first broke last summer, Ralph Lauren executive vice president for advertising David Lauren said, “Everyone is exploring wearable tech watches and headbands and looking at cool sneakers. We skipped to what we thought was new, which is apparel. We live in our clothes.”
Last summer OMsignal CEO and cofounder Stéphane Marceau predicted: “Smart clothing will become a pervasive and normal aspect of consumers’ lives. Following the recent launch of our Biometric Smartwear collection, we are continuing to receive orders from all over the world, developing new designs and working with top partners to bring our technology to an even wider consumer base.”
The initial target launch of "early 2015" for PoloTech wasn't met but the tech-enabled line of shirts is launching about a year after its original announcement. So far Ralph Lauren hasn't mentioned the other already announced offering from the partnership -- a health-sensing dress shirt.