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Wearable electronics step into the high street


Wearable sensor breakthrough from CDP and ECCO heralds a new era of customisation.

Technology and product design firm Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP) has worked with leading shoe brand ECCO on a breakthrough in data-driven customised footwear. It opens the door to a new generation of customised footwear for the mass market – heralding an evolution in engineered comfort. Consumers will get a full digital analysis of their foot structure and the way they move in just a few minutes – and shoes will be tailored to their specific requirements in just a few hours.

The QUANT-U (‘quantified you’) project will have an initial public release at W-21 Amsterdam – ECCO’s concept shoe store – next month. A key element is the wearable sensor embedded in the soles of the test shoes. It collects a multitude of data using gyroscopes, pressure sensors and accelerometers – as well as the temperature and humidity inside each shoe – to create a unique digital footprint. This data is autonomously translated into geometries for in-store 3D printing of shoes based on each individual’s biomechanical and orthotic parameters.

“The biggest challenge was the fact that the sensors are very close to the ground, hidden inside shoes and covered by a human body – yet they need to send data from both shoes simultaneously to a connected device such as a mobile phone,” said Roberto Basile, a software engineer at CDP. “We needed to maintain reliable communication – using Bluetooth Low Energy – despite the human body acting as an obstacle to the wireless signals. The mechanical system inside the sensor had to be robust enough for people to walk on it, while the battery had to be small and last at least three days without being recharged.”

The first prototype of the wearable sensor was created by CDP and ECCO in less than four months. The inbuilt algorithm filters the raw biomechanical data from the sensor into functional information. This data creates the input parameters for a 3D-printed customised midsole for individual customers in approximately two hours. For the QUANT-U pilot, the customised midsole will be paired with ECCO’s iconic Flexure shoe.

“Throughout my experience in footwear design and engineering, the concept of perfect fit, perfect dynamics and ultimate performance has long been an obsession,” said Patrizio Carlucci, head of ILE (Innovation Lab ECCO). “With QUANT-U we are now combining future technologies in order to augment footwear functionality without interfering with its aesthetics.”

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