Smart apparel: This digital t-shirt allows you to customize slogans, image using your smartphone
A different T-shirt to display your love for each of your favourite superheroes; a Fitbit to keep track of your quest to look more like that superhero; and a sleep-tracker for that much-required beauty sleep.
Or, you could just ditch all of these and make your clothes do all the work. At least, that is what the three founders-Ayyappa Nagubandi, Mahalakshmi Nagubandi and Saumil Shah-are aiming for with their startup, Broadcast Wear.
This Hyderabad-based startup wants to shake the foundation of the wearable tech industry with its innovative idea of putting tech into clothes, instead of making your tech wearable.
"Why do people need to wear an extra object when they can wear a T-shirt which looks like any other T-shirt, costs the same, but works like a tech accessory?" is the question which inspired the founding trio to start Broadcast Wear.
Keep your clothes on
Starting in February 2016 with touch-enabled T-shirts, the company has developed several products now - all focussed on transforming your clothes into tech accessories. Under the brand name SYGNAL, the company has developed several products on the same lines. The company says its technology allows an apparel to be aware of its surroundings and interact, interpret and engage the environment around you.
One of the products allows you to display the words or the design of your choice on the front of your T-shirt; with the option of changing it whenever the mood strikes.
An equaliser feature allows the wearer to display the music waves on her or his chest upon entering a pub. "The phone listens to the music and music waves are displayed on the LED panel," explains Nagubandi.
The company had also entered the fitness wear category with the launch of a jersey which allows the wearer to indicate her or his way through LED panels at the back of shoulder planes.
"Usually, cyclists prefer either early mornings or evenings to do their exercise. The natural light is very low at both of the time periods which increase the possibility of someone coming from behind and hitting them. This cyclist's jersey has LED sensors which light up near the back of the neck and when the wearer raises her or his right hand, the light behind the right gets switched, and vice-versa," explains Nagubandi.
The app allows all the images, designs, or slogans created by the user to be stored in a library available in the app. The LED panel is very thin and is sandwiched between two layers of fabric, and is connected to a battery (placed at one end of the T-shirt) and a Bluetooth chip (set on another end of the apparel).
The Bluetooth chip serves as the connection between the apparel and the app. The display panel has 8 rows and 32 columns which provides the user with a limit of 160 characters. The app supports only English language currently, but Nagubandi shares that the company has plans to launch other languages in the next few months.
"We use Surface Mounted Device LEDs (SMD-LED) in the t-shirt with flexible Printed Circuit Board (PCB). The front panel is connected to the micro processor and the Bluetooth chip using conductive thread," explains Nagubandi.
The company introduces new products every few months and is currently working on a bed-sheet which would enable the users to track their sleeping patterns. "We are working on a lot of ideas including the bed sheet which can track a person's sleeping pattern the same way a sleep-tracker does. We, anyway, sleep on a bed sheet then why not buy a sensor-stimulated bed sheet instead of a sleep-tracker?"asks Nagubandi.
Made for the laundry bag
Fitted with LED panel, a battery, and a Bluetooth chip - how will you ever wash it? Don't worry. The founders have taken care to preserve the fundamental character of a cloth. All these T-shirts can be washed multiple times, folded, or used in any way regular apparel can. Just treat it like any other T-shirt you own.
Available at the company's website, Amazon, and a few niche e-commerce websites; the products have a price range of Rs 999 to Rs 3,500. The orders, informs Nagubandi, have been pouring in from across the globe with the US being their biggest market, followed by India.
"We have consistently clocked 300% growth year-on-year since we launched. When the orders started surging, we had to brace ourselves for things we had never done before and our learning curve was steep. Our expertise was in technology services and taking on a new market head-on was quite a challenge. We invested in training our staff of modern technologies and the nitty-gritties of the apparel industry. Most of our team has spent some sleepless nights," says Nagubandi.
After sorting out the production and delivery challenges, the team is now focussed on increasing their sales. Increased sales, adds Nagubandi, is also essential for the founders to knock on investors' doors.
"We want to increase our sales and then, approach the investors. Very few in India are in this line of business and even in western countries, very few of such companies have made money. We want to approach investors not just with an impressive technology but also with the proof that people are buying this tech," says Nagubandi.
The plan is to keep innovating with the sole aim of eliminating superfluous gadgets from your body and let your clothes perform those very functions. The team, says Nagubandi, is planning to increase its product range to 150 plus by next year.
ByChhavi Tyagi @ ET Online
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