Justine Decaenes, Project Leader at CTT Group models models a heated coat, after presenting at a Smart Apparel Event in Toronto on Wednesday. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Self-heating coats, smart shirts offer glimpse of the future in Toronto showcase

TORONTO — Some thirty floors above Toronto’s streets, a select group of people caught a glimpse of the future.

The future is smart, with technology no longer limited to phones in pockets or watches on wrists, but branching out to the fabric of clothing.

At a news conference Wednesday promoting this summer’s Apparel Textile Sourcing Canada conference, a few insiders showed off the latest wares, a meeting of tech and textiles. Some of the items are on the market, but many aren’t yet.

Justine Decaens, a project leader with CTT Group from Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., showed off a self-heating coat. Inside are six heating elements.

Those elements are made of a conductive fabric and when the coat is connected to a power source — like a battery in a pocket — they heat up. That allows for less down in the coat, making for a slimmer look, Decaens said.

Her company works with other companies who come armed with an idea and they develop a prototype.

“Once the prototype is functional and it meets all the criteria the client has, we transfer how to produce it to them and they produce it,” she said.

In the future, it appears losing items in a purse will also no longer be a problem. Decaens opened a purse, pushed a button and lights illuminated its contents.

“It’s impossible find things in our purses,” Decaens said with a smile. “Not anymore.”

Nearby, Marie Brouillet, the business development director at Vestechpro, a Montreal-based non-profit, showed off a shirt on a headless and limbless mannequin.

There are sensors in the shirt, named Hexoskin, that capture heart rate, breathing rate, even acceleration. Those sensors are connected to a tiny computer about half the size of a business card, that beams out the information to an app on a smartphone or tablet.

The Hexoskin is on the market and sells for a cool $399, Brouillet said. They’re hot sellers, she said.

She then picked up a pair of insoles made by Greybox, another Montreal company. They have pressure sensors connected to a device that also transmits data to an app. But it’s not for athletes or weekend warriors, she said, rather they are made for seniors, especially those recovering from an injury or surgery.

The information captured can be analyzed by doctors and physiotherapists to see if patients are performing their exercises properly, she said.

Some of the insoles are out there now being used by medical professionals, and the information is also being sent to researchers at McGill University.

Vestechpro also works with other companies to develop textiles and the big trend, she said, is technology.

“The future looks really exciting,” she said. “There’s a lot of things I can’t talk about, I wish I could.”

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