Rightly or wrongly, the French are known for clothing designs that are often less than practical. Now, however, French company Cityzen Sciences has won the CES 2014 Inclusive Innovation in Everyday Health award for its development of a Smart Sensing fabric woven with integral micro-sensors – these add the practical benefit of monitoring the health and fatigue levels of the wearer.

The Smart Sensing fabric reads body heat, respiration rate, heart rate, and motion through location via GPS. "The fabric can be made into any clothing; gloves, shirts, pants, you name it," said Gilbert Reveillon, Cityzen's international managing director.

The new smart fabric combines sensors, fabric, distributed computation, and a small battery-powered transmitter into a unit that links in real time to a smartphone. The phone runs an app that stores and analyzes data from the fabric, showing if the person wearing the garment is tired, stressed, or in the path of an imminent heart attack. Obvious applications are for people who find themselves in extreme conditions, such as athletes, first responders, and soldiers.

Smart Sensing fabric, which costs perhaps 30 to 40 percent more than ordinary material, can be safely laundered and ironed. Additional sensors can be added to the fabric, as compatible versions are developed. Such information as blood oxygen, tidal volume (the amount of air flowing in and out of the lungs when breathing normally), and perhaps eventually blood glucose levels could make such fabrics vital systems in monitoring people's day-to-day health.

Perhaps the cleverest part of Smart Sensing fabric is still under development. Cityzen is working on a recharging system for the fabric, that receives most of its energy when the clothing is washed. This is a perfect use for a motion-driven recharging system – can you think of a better environment for collecting mechanical energy than a washing machine?

Smart Sensing fabric is expected to reach the commercial market later this year. More information is available in the video below.