Is the day when your clothes can take on the role of your smartphone approaching? Zenoma (Tokyo), founded last year, is firmly focused on developing the latest in wearable technology. Ichiro Amimori, co-founder and CEO, says that his aim is to “replace smart phones with electronic clothing.” A new form of textile outfitted with minute electric circuits printed using conductive ink, the company’s durable “e-skin” can flexibly expand and contract.

E-skin is a technology developed by Professor Takao Someya of the School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo, and forms one of the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s Strategic Basic Research Programs. Mr. Amimori was among the people involved in the planning of Professor Someya’s project. He decided to found his company based on the belief that “the field of wearable technology is progressing quickly. If I don’t make it commercially viable soon, I will miss the boat.”

The conductive ink, jointly developed with manufacturers in Japan, is highly durable; its conductivity does not change even if washed or stretched during printing. “The unique wiring technology is crucial.” The printing of the delicate electric circuits even allows the textile to function as a sensor, measuring biological information at a maximum of 35 locations simultaneously.

No special printing equipment is required. For now, the textile’s sensor functionality will be used in products for measuring the movement of the body during sport, or for monitoring people in nursing care.

As he pursues joint development with domestic partners, including fabric and sports goods manufacturers, with a view toward commercialisation in 2018, Mr Amimori notes that “Japanese technology will be delivered from abroad.”

He stresses that “the clothing-style wearable technology that has already been announced involves articles where features have been newly-added to apparel. What I am trying to do is to make the clothing itself electronic, so the concept is different.” His company plans to develop the technology with the idea that “in the future, everyone’s smartphones will become e-skin.”

Ichiro Amimori, co-founder and CEO,

Ichiro Amimori, co-founder and CEO,