Smarty Pants: Digital Underwear Will Be the Next Mobile Battleground

Last Updated Jun 25, 2010 1:48 PM EDT

Facebook, Twitter, Apple (APPL) and other companies are focused on location services, but the next mobile battleground will be a lot more intimate. The newest technology is focused on smart underwear that can give information and retrieve information without the user having to think about it.

From Don Muir of Reuters:

Printed on the waistband and in constant contact with the skin is an electronic biosensor, designed to measure blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs.

The technology, developed by nano-engineering professor Joseph Wang of University of California San Diego and his team, breaks new ground in the field of intelligent textiles and is part of shift in focus in healthcare from hospital-based treatment to home-based management.

The method is similar to conventional screen-printing although the ink contains carbon electrodes.

Smart underwear could revolutionize many mobile technologies:

Giving information:A FourSquare-style service could have automatic updates. It would check to see how long the clothing had been in a particular location and, based on the preciseness, check in the user. Apple and, presumably, all mobile companies have user location, but that assumes the user has his or her phone. It is safe to assume potential users will always have their underwear.

Another example would be a medical alert system. Previous technology required the sick to still press a button on the necklace or bracelet alarm. Underwear tracking heart rate and other stats could automatically contact the nearby hospital or care giver.

Receiving information:Apple has already had a successful partnership with Nike (NKE) for shoe/iPod connectivity. It is easy to picture Apple patenting sensor recognition that adjusts the music to the appropriate bpm (Beats Per Minute) based on your heartbeat. An exercise cooldown shifts to, say, uptempo jazz, while a stride shifts to hard-edged hip-hop.

Apple as well as game companies UbiSoft and Nintendo (NTYOD) are already implementing technology that measures user rhythm, heartbeat and breathing patterns, but they all require external equipment. For instance, the Nintendo Vitality Sensor slips like a holder on your finger. Underwear and other clothing-based tech will eliminate the excess -- and you can bet a major tech company will be locking the related patents down as soon as possible.

Photo courtesy of heyrocker. Related: