Smart clothing has been in the works for a while now at companies like Google. However, the futuristic drip has now been eyed up by IARPA, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity within the Director of National Intelligence.
In an attempt to create Bond-like technology for United States spies, IARPA has greenlit a “SMART ePANTS” project that will turn ordinary fabrics into high-end spy tools. But what uses are they planning for these techno-threads?
What is the IARPA SMART ePANTS project?
An acronym for Smart Electrically Powered And Networked Textile System, the SMART ePANTS project is designed to be the next generation of spyware. Essentially, the project aims to create ordinary clothing items that hide tiny cameras and microphones that are constantly gathering information.
The smart clothes will be fitted with a variety of sensors, cameras, microphones and GPS chips to gather as much data as possible. These clothes could be anything from smart contact lenses to shoes with GPS tracking; as far as IARPA is concerned, anything is possible.
Via Sociable, a report from 2020 explained that these tools will be integral to the future of spying. The report states that “by weaving these devices directly into garments, Intelligence Community staff will be able to record information from their environment hands-free, without the need to wear uncomfortable, bulky, and rigid devices”.
IARPA listed a number of “expected garments environment[s]” that the clothes would be used in. These included closet storage, factory work, driving and, very creepily, at a family meal. Yes, because we all want creepy Uncle Terry being able to record everything without us knowing.
In the brief, it's claimed that all SMART ePANTS clothing must have its recording capabilities concealed. Furthermore, these recording devices must be “natural parts of the clothing” such as collars, buttons or zippers — or as we like to call it: crotchcam.
Incredibly dangerous tech
As it turns out, we're not fond of IARPA SMART ePANTS, not one bit. The existence of concealed cameras in general is one that many find uncomfortable, but cameras designed to be worn at family meals are even weirder.
On one hand, this is tech designed explicitly for spy work. However, it won't take long for the technology to find its way into the public’s hand. Once that happens, then anything can be recorded without knowledge. We also wouldn't trust anyone we knew who was constantly wearing a camera on their zipper.
The technology, of course, has major privacy issues for millions of people. If the smart clothing does become a prominent piece of tech, then it would completely destroy the boundaries between people.