The other day I met my wife for lunch in downtown Boston. We walked from near her office to a great sushi place. It was one of those perfect Autumn days (it is officially Autumn now): cool but not cold; warm but not hot. One of those days where you can wear shorts and a t-shirt or pants and a coat. To me, the perfect kind of day. A few blocks from my wife, I stood next to three people wearing suits waiting for the crosswalk signal. Well to be honest this is Boston, so they were just waiting for the coast to be clear to start jaywalking. While cars whizzed by, one turns to her compatriots and says,”brrr! It’s cold.” I just moved from Minnesota. I am still smug. I was in a t-shirt and jeans (children’s casual as I like to call it). I wanted to say, “oh really this is cold? Ha. We’ve still got 60-plus degrees to go before it’s cold.” Of course I said nothing.
I didn’t bring the sweatshirt I was wearing earlier because it was too warm and I threw out the one light jacket I had—it was almost fifteen years old and I’d bought it when my high school girlfriend visited me in Houston when I was a freshman in college; clearly it was time for it to go. If I’m being honest, it would have been nice to be wearing that jacket when the wind picked up and the highrises blocked the sun.
What if we only needed one jacket? One jacket for winter, spring, summer, and fall. Here’s the concept:
Nano-based materials have some strange properties. Some can turn from conductors to insulators. Others can get fatter rather than thinner when stretched. Imagine a jacket made out of a material that could modulate how well it insulated. Based on either the heat of your body or the ambient temperature of your surroundings, it could augment how well it kept the wind out, how well it held or released heat, which direction it let water wick, etc.
On a molecular level, this should all be doable. It probably could be done with one super-material or a combination of threads. Maybe it has to do with both the composites used and the way the threads are weaved. Or perhaps it’s not threads but something printed or poured. A very, very intelligent composite material or plastic. It could all be automatic, built into the temperature and moisture thresholds of the material or controlled by the user: voice activation, a small haptic control area—touch screen, pull chord, buttons, zipper. Or maybe the “supercoat” senses things like your heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, electrical conductivity of your skin, the amount of sweat present, whether you’re shivering, etc. and adjusts according. And you know what? Let’s simplify it. It is Bluetooth enabled, and synced and controlled by your smartphone. It just senses. All the hard-processing is done by that other computer you always have on you.
Convergence is happening. One by one all these signals, feedback loops, and technologies are appearing in various aspects of our lives. Wearable computers are a common talking point these days, as are flexible touch screens. This concept isn’t that far off from either. It’s just a matter of putting them together.
I haven’t spent the time to exhaustively Google this concept, but I would wager that someone is working on this right now. Probably DARPA or 3M. Maybe both together. Or perhaps this is what Apple makes after the iWatch? Someone needs to get on this idea ASAP.
For whatever reasons make you happy, follow Shoegnome on Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feed. And now you can join the LinkedIN group too! I’d like to break the 1,000 followers/likes/subscribers mark on a few of my social media accounts before the end of the year. Help me make dreams come true. Or just create this theoretical all season jacket and send me a free one. I like bright colors, but won’t argue. Though if you are making this jacket, why not also make it color changing?