Snowboard jacket with MP3, Bluetooth to hit slopes

Photo Tag: 04-03-58

The snowboarding, gadget-loving crowd have something to celebrate: The European division of sports gear retailer O’Neill Inc. will sell a snowboarding jacket with an MP3 player and a Bluetooth module, for those all important mountaintop mobile phone calls, integrated into the jacket.

The snowboarding jacket, called The Hub, features a chip module containing a full-featured MP3 player and a Bluetooth module for controlling a mobile phone, built by Infineon Technologies AG, using electrically conductive tracks woven into the fabric to connect the chip module to a fabric keyboard and built-in speakers in the helmet, Norbert Pollemans, a spokesman for O’Neill Europe said.

The jacket will be sold throughout Europe for about US$638.40 by the end of August or the beginning of September, for O’Neill’s 2004/05 winter collection, Pollemans said. Initially, the jacket will only be for men, though a version for women will probably become available the following season, he said.

Tested to withstand snow, rain and freezing temperatures, the jacket’s stereo system also works as the headset for making phone calls, with a microphone integrated in the jacket’s collar.

O’Neill, in Santa Cruz, California, currently has no firm plans for retailing the snowboarding jacket in the U.S., though the company is “speaking about it at the moment,” Pollemans said.

The Hub is the first “wearable electronics” product realized from the joint development project between Infineon, in Munich, and O’Neill. According to Infineon, it has discussed “firm projects” with more than 200 companies from the textile industry, in an effort to open up new markets and sales channels.

Infineon is currently working on an initial prototype of a “smart carpet,” though the company did not release any details of the carpet’s electronic functions. Representatives of Infineon could not immediately be reached for comment.

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