Wearable technology causing silver demand surge

Silver has always played a prominent role in industry, with the precious metal often used in electronics, medical devices and environmentally friendly applications.

This trend shows no signs of abating, and the latest innovation to utilise silver is wearable technology. Google Glass has topped many of the headlines in this rapidly evolving sector, but Apple’s upcoming iWatch and other exciting products are quickly gaining momentum.

One of the areas where silver is making the biggest contribution is biometric sports apparel. Athletic clothing fitted with sensors allows wearers to obtain crucial data such as their heartbeat in real-time, running speed and distance travelled.

Silver’s high conductivity makes it the perfect conduit for tracking and transmitting this information, and the metal is already being used by a number of famous brand names. The Silver Institute noted that Ralph Lauren’s Polo Tech Shirt, which was recently introduced at the 2014 US Open Tennis Championship, is an excellent example of how wearable technology is bringing a new level of sophistication to the sports world.

Bio-sensing silver fibres are woven throughout the shirts, which were worn by ball boys and girls. The sensors pick up stress levels, breathing information and other data, and this is then transferred to smartphones or other devices.

Silver’s antimicrobial qualities are also being put to good use. The white metal is used in a solution that is applied to clothing in an effort to fight off germs.

Ralph Lauren claimed the shirt is a flagship product for the company’s expanding line of tech-enhanced clothing options that will become available from 2015 onwards. The fashion retailer is collaborating with Canadian firm OMSignals, which is responsible for the development, marketing and production of biometric sportswear.

Building on silver’s potential 

The Silver Institute said the use of silver in wearables technology will become a key part of Ralph Lauren’s agenda in the coming years. In fact, the apparel giant expects biometric products to become a significant slice of its future business.

Executive Director of the Silver Institute Michael DiRienzo said this is another sign of the metals versatility for industrial applications.

He remarked: “Silver is the crucial component in so many of today’s technologies – from computers and smart phones to medical applications, solar energy, and automobiles, to name a few.

“Now it’s at the leading edge of wearable technology.”

Recent statistics from the Silver Institute revealed three high-growth areas of silver demand: light-emitting diodes, interposers and flexible electronics. These applications are expected to add approximately 20 million ounces to demand within the next four years.

Flexible electronics includes a number of popular consumer products, including the displays on tablets, smartphones and e-readers. Interposers have significant potential in semiconductor chip functionality, and silver is increasingly being considered as an important component in interposer manufacture.

In July, Mr DiRienzo implied that additional applications for silver in the business world could see industrial investment in silver jump.

“With the introduction of these advanced uses of silver in the electrical and electronics category, which last year provided over 40 percent of total silver industrial demand, along with growth in established uses, we should see silver industrial demand develop even further, especially as economies grow globally,” he explained.

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