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The survival jacket that will keep you alive in the harshest of conditions

22nd of April 2014, 0 comments, category: Innovation Stories

by Fleur Pozzi, for Onclaude

Global design and innovation company Seymourpowell (founded in London in 1984) have designed a new smart jacket for extreme environments for Korean outdoor sportswear brand Kolon Sport, a startling innovation in wearable technology that will keep you alive in the harshest of conditions.

Having spent months consulting with a pool of experts working in different fields of extreme survival, including a Professor of human thermodynamics, an ex-UK Special Forces operative and a Polar Explorer, a huge amount of work has gone into creating an innovative and potentially life-saving 3-in-1 jacket known as the Life Tech.

As you would expect, the outer shell is both waterproof and windproof and made from the highly breathable Gore-Tex Pro. Next is a thermal layer with a Heatex system that provides up to 7 hours of heat and can reach 40-50°C. This is where it starts to get exciting, as previous efforts have typically amounted to a rather bony structure not dissimilar to an electric blanket with a complex network of heating wires and elements. Heatex is, in fact, the first heat-generating fabric in the world; made of a conductive polymer, it creates the heat itself. Finally, a stretch fabric base layer ensures that the battery sits close to the body’s core – the warmth can help extend the battery’s life.

Since the Life Tech is designed for the likes of the high alpine mountaineer facing icy winds, blizzards and temperatures many degrees below zero, it’s not surprising that there should have been such a focus on keeping the wearer warm (there is also a raccoon fur liner in the hood for the head). In fact, this aspect was a top priority in light of other wearable technology manufacturers previously having to recall some of their own products that have caused skin irritation, rashes and burns.

On top of all this, the Life Tech features a wearable wind turbine generator; oversized zip pulls designed for use with gloves; shoulder and back straps to make it easier to rescue you, if necessary; and a wearable first aid and survival kit. The wind turbine generator is particularly interesting. Mounted onto the sleeve, it can be angled in such a way as to generate wind power during the day; at night, attach it to the roof of your tent and it will carry on generating. Aside from charging the Heatex system in your jacket, it can charge your Smartphone for much-needed communication and navigation. An app has, in fact, been developed to control the temperature (the alternative is a hard remote control); it also offers GPS tracking, routing and emergency location forwarding.

Seymourpowell Associate Design Director Ian Whatley says that the jacket system has been produced to showcase Kolon's cutting edge technologies but, at the same time, it's also available to the mass market. The jacket retails at 2,000,000 KRW (around 1,900 USD) and is available in yellow and green.

"More generally, Mariel Brown, Head of Trends at Seymourpowell, says that wearable technology will only really take off if it’s designed with an eye for fashion, “The fundamental truth behind wearable technology is it has to look good or we just won’t wear it; we need a reason to put it on.” She explains that wearable technology is becoming smaller, more durable, more flexible and more affordable. The Life Tech jacket is great progress, but these are all good reasons why the fashion industry should now start experimenting more; it needs to look to the future and explore all that is possible, and not let the tech companies be the sole drivers of wearable technology." 

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