Smarty Pants


Exceptional Parents have always worn “exceptional clothes” and have created an awareness,
a movement and a culture that will surely outlast any battery-operated “smart device.”

It seems like we are surrounded, seduced and immersed with “smart” things. These days, there are “smart phones,” “smart cars,” “smart watches,” “smart homes,” “smart environments,” and even “smart clothes”! Obviously, all of these devices were imagined, designed and built by smart people.

Of course you have to be pretty “smart” to even understand what these “smart” things do. How is this definition of “smart devices” to challenge the “smart” in you?

“A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously. Smart devices can be designed to support a variety of form factors, a range of properties pertaining to ubiquitous computing and to be used in three main system environments: physical world, human-centered environments and distributed computing environments.”

Like I said, one needs to be “smart” to understand “smart.”

When I was growing up and going to public school in Brooklyn we had a name for the kid who seemed to know everything: ”Smarty-pants.” The Urban Dictionary nails the definition of smarty pants as “ a person who knows the word ‘lul-a-bye’ comes from the Saxon words, ‘lut,’ meaning ‘to sing’ and ’bye’ meaning ‘to sleep,’ and then brags about it in the weekly email newsletter.”

Another popular term for a “know-it-all” was “smart aleck.” The origin of the term could be the basis for a popular documentary or TV series. According to G.L. Cohen, author of Studies in Slang Part 1 (1985), the phrase smart alec(k) arose from the exploits of one Alec Hoag. A celebrated pimp, thief, and confidence man operating out of New York City in the 1840s, Mr. Hoag, along with his wife Melinda and an accomplice known as “French Jack”, operated a con called the “panel game,” a method by which prostitutes and their pimps robbed foolish customers.

“The panel game consisted of sliding walls that would enable Mr. Hoag to sneak in whilst the mark was sleeping and steal valuables. Before Mr. Hoag, a prostitute’s accomplices would wait until the mark was asleep, then burst into the room. But the marks got wise and would block the door with a table or chair propped up under the doorknob,  thinking they would then be safe from intruders.

‘Smart’ Alec Hoag, because he never woke the victim, would be on the other side of town before the rube even knew what had happened.” While that was a long explanation, it now enables you to work in into a conversation where everyone will begin to refer to you as a “smart aleck.”

The idea of “smart clothes” in modern times can be traced back to 1966 where a MIT researcher wrote “clothing can enhance our capabilities without requiring any conscious efforts. These capabilities can range from sensing to providing stimuli, to visual effects.” One could argue that the earliest example of “smart clothing” was the armor worn by knights and gladiators. It was certainly “smart” to don an outfit that would protect you against an enemy’s “spetums, bardiches and halberds” (that was an example of my being a “smart ass.”)

The latest entry into the “smart clothes” arena is a new jacket introduced by Levi’s in collaboration with Google’s Project Jacquard. They have designed conductive fibers that are “woven directly into clothing so that motions you make on the left cuff of the jacket’s sleeve register as touch inputs, as if it were a screen. Those are then sent to your smartphone via a Bluetooth attachment that clips on as a cufflink.”

Arrow has developed a dress shirt with an inbuilt chip on the cuff that can be programmed by downloading an app that sends a copy of their business card or send their LinkedIn profile to an acquaintance during business meetings by tapping their phone on the cuff.

A recent marketing report predicts consumers will be buying more than 10 million pieces of “smart clothes” by 2020. Presently, most “smart clothes” are related to performance and athletics. Sports enthusiasts are using “sensor infused” shirts, shorts, sports bras and socks that provide biometric data on muscle activity, breathing rate, and heart activity zones.

The medical device industry is working on “wearables” that can transmit data that reports on a patient’s temperature, stress level, sugar levels, oxygen saturation, and other vital signs. The garments are so sophisticated that they can report the full wave of the heartbeat rather than just the pulse. The hospital gown of the future will be more like an entire telemetry unit than simply a sheet that readily exposes your butt.

Research is underway to design “smart clothes” that can provide feedback on your personal hydration, exposure to ultra-violet rays, protection from electromagnetic generation, posture correction, changes in approaching walking surfaces to alert for potential falls, instant messaging to police in threatening situations, illumination in dark areas and heat production when the ambient temperature falls. They are currently engineering “smart bras” that can detect changes in the surface tension of the breasts that might signal potential pathological conditions.

For readers of Exceptional Parent magazine, we have a new “smart clothes” innovation. Researchers in Singapore have developed clothing that delivers the deep pressure of a “hug.” According to the company, “The accompanying smartphone app allows a parent, teacher or guardian to give ‘a hug’ from anywhere, and integrated airbags in the vest simulate it. The jacket allows for varying levels of pressure to be applied to different parts of the body, creating a more personalized form of remote physical interaction. The app also allows the parent to track the location and activities of the child using the T Jacket.” Obviously this garment was designed specifically for children with sensory processing issues like autism. Unlike “therapy dogs,” and “companion pets,” you don’t have to walk or feed the clothes.

These “smart hug garments” can also provide others with “attaboy” hugs based on signals that monitor stress levels; and who doesn’t need one (or two) of those in the course of the day.

Exceptional Parents have been way ahead of the curve in regards to “smart clothes.” For years before the installation of micro-circuits, Bluetooth connectivity and solar powered battery packs in clothes, parents of children with special needs had their own line of “smart clothes.” They wore hats, jackets, shirts and sweatshirts with the logos of their affiliated organizations like the Arc, March of Dimes, Down syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, Special Olympics, Family Voices and other lesser known groups like the National Mucopolysaccharidoses Society, the Triploid Syndrome Association and virtually every parent support, parent research, parent advocacy and parent-to-parent group known. They have proudly worn clothes that have announced their allegiance to groups that were created to fortify their individual commitments to insuring that their children receive ample and deserved opportunities to be included, respected and acknowledged.

For generations they have defined and redefined “smarty pants.”

Exceptional Parents have always worn “exceptional clothes” and have created an awareness, a movement and a culture that will surely outlast any battery-operated “smart device.”•

In his 87th year, the artist Michelangelo (1475 -1564) is believed to have said “Ancora imparo” (I am still learning). Hence, the name for my monthly observations and comments.
 — Rick Rader, MD, Editor-in-Chief, EP Magazine Director, Morton J. Kent Habilitation Center Orange Grove Center, Chattanooga, TN