Google wants to bring smart scrubs to the medical world.
Project Jacquard, a unit of its Advanced Technologies and Projects division dedicated to producing “connected” fabric, recently announced a partnership with uniform-maker Cintas to create interactive clothing for healthcare and safety.
That’s a new direction for one of Google’s most futuristic technologies, which wirelessly connects clothing to gadgets, software platforms, or cloud services.
We got our first good look at Jacquard in May, when ATAP showed off a new smart jacket that it’s building with Levi’s designed to let cyclists control their phones by touching the sleeve.
For example, you could tap the jacket’s cuff to change songs or make a quick swipe to ignore an incoming phone call as you pedal through traffic.
Studying the hospitals
The Levi’s jacket is expected in the Spring of 2017. But the new deal with Cintas shows a potentially more significant use of the Jacquard technology: Cintas will be working with several top hospitals to come up with ways to use the technology for both employees and patients.
Although both Google and Cintas declined to give many specifics on the partnership, project lead Ivan Poupyrev tells Business Insider that his team is following the same principles when thinking about designing for the work place as for the average person.
“As a platform, we want to enable all of the potential applications for Jacquard, whether they be for the enterprise or consumer,” he said via email. “However it’s key to us that the applications are useful and impactful, and something that couldn’t be achieved without Jacquard.”
Just as the Levi’s jacket was developed by looking at cyclists, medical uses cases will be developed by studying real problems in hospitals.
“With Cintas, you can imagine the possibilities within healthcare and safety in the garments worn by practitioners and patients that would hopefully impact and benefit their day to day,” he said.
Unlike some of Google’s other ambitious projects, ATAP concepts have strict, two-year deadlines during which they’re supposed to prove their value as an independent business or get killed. Jacquard has been around since at least May 2015, when Google first unveiled it to the world.
Working in enterprise sounds like a more sure-fire way to make money than selling to regular people.
As Tech Insider’s Rafi Letzter recently wrote that Jacquard “looks a great deal like one of those projects tech bloggers will cover breathlessly for a few months, and enthusiasts will line up for, but that most consumers will never buy into in a big way.”
In that way, the Cintas partnership feels similar to how Google’s smart headset, Glass, made much more sense when applied to workplace uses than as something the average human would want to wear on their face.