Urgent Matters

Could T-shirts, sports bras, socks help generate future revenue for radio dealers?

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Undergarments are probably among the last products that radio dealers traditionally would consider selling, but smart clothing that delivers sensor data regarding biometrics such as heart activity and impact information promise to be part of lucrative solutions that can be leveraged in a variety of enterprise scenarios.

It’s an interesting time for radio dealers, as they seek to find new ways to generate revenue now that business from FCC mandates for 800 MHz rebanding and narrowbanding below 470 MHz has disappeared in most areas of the country. Some have turned to supporting next-generation 911, some are developing solutions to address niche market needs, and others are training staff to get ready for LTE-based offerings.

So far, I’ve not heard any dealers talk about selling undergarments—but it may be something they should consider.

Yesterday, Mission Ready Services—via its U.S.-based subsidiary Protect the Force—announced a representation agreement with Seattle-based Heapsylon, which makes smart-fabric garments that deliver textile-sensor data via Bluetooth to communications devices and are completely washable. Heapsylon T-shirts and sports bras enable the transmission of heart-monitoring data, while the company’s socks have sensors that provide activity and impact data while the user walks or runs, according to company CEO Davide Vigano.

Although the company’s primary market is expected to be associated with the fitness industry, the first-responder use cases are among the most compelling, Vigano said.

“We have a textile sensing technology that can detect not just activity but fall detection, as an example,” Vigano said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “You can imagine a firefighter deployed in a sticky situation, and it would be nice to know if that person has fallen on the ground.”

Other potentially vital information to military and public safety is the heart-monitoring data, which could be used by a commander to help determine when personnel need to rest to avoid risking personal injury, Vigano said. There also are healthcare-related applications that can be enabled by the wearable garments, including remote monitoring of patients recently released from the hospital.

“Our goal is to become the Gortex of the wearable-device industry—we want to become an ingredient to other brands,” Vigano said. “We’re seeking the type of partnerships in this space—such as the one that we’re announcing today with Mission Ready Services and Protect the Force—that are very specific in leveraging the knowledge of people that know more than we do in the defense, DoD and first-responder space.”

And radio dealers often have the relationships with local first-responder entities that Heapsylon is seeking in potential partners, Vigano said.

“We’re look forward to the partnership with Mission Ready Services and Protect the Force, but there is nothing exclusive in the partnership,” he said. “We’re obviously seeking out other partnerships in the local-government space, as well.”

Frankly, I doubt that radio dealers would ever want to inventory and sell individual garments, like a retail clothing store does. However, selling bulk purchases of such smart garments to outfit an entire first-responder agency may make sense, particularly if it can be part of a more comprehensive deal to bring a sensor-based solution to a government entity.

As more enterprises seek to leverage sensor-based data and migrate to the so-called Internet of Things, radio dealers that keep up with this arena would appear to be in prime position to capitalize on the opportunities associated with this burgeoning marketplace, because they already have the valued relationships with the customers making the buying decisions.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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