Close-Up: An Intro To Wearable Technology I: China’s Huami Company. 特写.可穿戴技术的发展: 中国华米公司. 第一部分.

 

The concepts of smart clothing and wearable technology are based on a permanent integration of clothing and technology. Take a look at the past, present and future of wearable tech through the eyes of China’s Huami Company. In the utopia that is Fashion Week, the die-hard fashionista may soon face a dystopian FROW. A frightening foreboding for some… Out with the IT Girl, in with the I.T. girl?

Prototypes some of the examples below may well still be, but in another two years time, people will be peach-cobbler-keen on ‘em. 

When in China, a girl – IT or I.T. – needs to get her nail game on. No one can give your pinky a polished yet wildly punk makeover like the Chinese nail technician can. Hence, let us get this fashion tech 101 show up and running with a quick 2014 retrospective by Bridgette Meinhold from online guide to sustainable style Ecouterre:

 “No need to strap a smart watch on your wrist to track activity when you can embed all the necessary sensors on your nails. Integrated into you body, wearable tech nail devices could easily be the future of wearable technology. Kristina Ortega and Jenny Rodenhouse, two MFA student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California came up with the concept of attaching sensors and devices to their nails as a way to explore new options in wearable technology. As they see it, nail salons of the future will be capable of outfitting you with customized devices on your nails whether you want to track your activity or health, modify behavior or just trip out dancing with LEDs on your fingers. Nail technicians would work to embed tailored sensors and devices on to your nails to match your needs”

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Robotic Dress by Anina Net, Bruce Bateman, Michael Starost. Photo: Hanep Creative Studio.

Trippy truth be told, indeed. We have since Meinhold’s nail extravaganza exposé witnessed a considerable collection of smartwatches, fitness trackers, smartglasses and VR headsets hit mainstream markets – granted, that VR headset remains rather … “niche”, shall we say. Clothes can be made “smart” by adding intelligent features such as information technology and by using special fibers that react in unconventional ways.

Smart clothing is taking its first tentative steps toward the gadget-loving client: Samsung has trotted out its Body Compass workout shirt monitoring biometric data, Barclaycard together with Lyle&Scott have brandished a contact-less payment jacket powered by bPay, the OMsignal Sports Bra tracks distances run, as well as records breathing and heart rates, and Neopenda’s vital signs monitor is fitted inside a hat for newborn babies – genius, says the non-IT/I.T. (me) woman. Lest we forget China’s 360 Fashion Net, founded by Beijing-based American Anina Net, who on September 18 of this year came out with a deliciously discobotic dress; very Studio 2054. Pair it with an RFactory LED Bag and you’ll be the light of the party.

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RFactory LED Bag. Photo: Hanep Creative Studio.

Prototypes some of the aforementioned may well still be, but in another two years time, people will be peach-cobbler-keen on ‘em. Putting the Swarovski icing on the tech cake, all you curious “smart accessorizing” minds just head straight to Temper’s feature on Beijing-Based jewelry brand Totwoo – a prime China example in that area. Imagination and Information Technology have joined hands and are steadily, with a few high-heeled catwalk mishaps surely to come, sweeping into the daily dernier fashion cri. Now, how did we get here and where do we go?

Prior to the dawn of the Apple iWatch, it was both the sectors of healthcare and military that instigated the most state-of-the-wearable-tech-art development.

Ready To Wear

Wearable technology refers to the incorporation of electronic and computing devices into clothing or accessories to improve the convenience and portability of technologies — think smartphones and computers — and with that the productiveness of their bearer. Despite wearable electronic products having been around since the 80s — think those (now once again trending in Hipsterville) brick mobile phones — they have only rather recently seen considerable developments in the consumer market. The introduction of Google Glass, Samsung Gear and the Apple iWatch has put wearable technology at the forefront of the consumer electronics industry.

可穿戴技术指的是通过将电子和电脑设备嵌入人们的衣着或配件,以提高智能手机、电脑的便捷性和可携带性,以及穿戴者的生产力。虽然可穿戴电子产品在上世纪80年代就已存在,如电子手表和免提电话,但直到最近几年才在消费电子市场上取得巨大进展。谷歌眼镜、三星Gear智能手表的出现,以及日前上市的苹果iWatch智能腕表将可穿戴技术带入个人电子消费市场的前沿

Prior to the dawn of these products, it was both the realms of healthcare and military that galvanized the most state-of-the-wearable-tech-art development. Within these two rather major non-consumer markets, the military steadily developed devices for communications and optics, whilst several bio-medical companies happily produced various technologies such as wireless biodata-tracking pills and fitness monitors… That’s all just hunky-dory, but I shall hereby put on my tinfoil hat – go track my disco-data, Big Pharma.

在这些产品出现之前,可穿戴技术发展在医疗和军事领域发展最快。在这些非消费市场,军方已经研发出用于通讯以及光通信的设备,生物医药公司也制造出了五花八门的设备,如能追踪个人生物数据并无线传输的药片和健康监控设备。

Xiaomi Founder Lei Jun sums up the ultimate wearable tech start-up strategy as follows: Stay focused, be the best, build your reputation and go forward. Fast.

Ready To Huami

Wearable technology is now, understandably so, a trending topic in the tech industry. Nevertheless, while the most contended and current wearable devices, such as the Apple iWatch 2, are — in the bigger accessorizing scheme of things — only just beginning to make their way onto the popular market. China in recent years has seen the rise of many wearable tech start-up companies such as Huami Technology, the wearables arm of Xiaomi Inc. (a highly successful privately owned Chinese electronics company). Many of these new firms boast powerful and famous backers, with Xiaomi Founder Lei Jun summing up the ultimate start-up strategy as follows: Stay focused, be the best, build your reputation and go forward. Fast.

在中国,像华米这样的可穿戴创业公司,为数众多。他们很多都在践行著名投资人&小米创始人雷军总结出来的七字诀:专注、极致、口碑、快。

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The Huami Amazfit Moonbeam Bracelet — as financially backed by Xiaomi. Photo: Huami.

Huami’s very first wearable product was the Amazfit Smart Bracelet. This particular product brought together the unique features of different items available on the market at the time and, moreover, incorporated a few extra useful elements such as the ability to automatically unlock your phone screen. With the bracelet’s power lasting you more than a month, this innovative product soon became a wearable tech market leader.

华米的第一款产品是小米手环。它实现了当时市面上主要几款产品分别具有的特色功能,并融入了一些独有功能,例如手环自动解锁手机屏保密码;最后华米把手环续航时间做到了超过一个月,形成了很大的技术领先优势。

Huami took only eight months to complete the Amazfit’s full-scale production process, from research and development to the actual production as to ensure the brand’s products could take a stable and reliable market stance. Huami enlisted the help of mothership Xiaomi’s branding techniques, supply chain, Internet traffic, electricity providers and other resources to amplify the company’s advantage, as well as establish a true ‘ tried Xiaomi-styled online operation methodology and product logic.

更重要的是,华米在短短8个月内完成了从研发到大规模量产的庞大工作量,让产品稳定可靠地出现在市场上。华米借助小米的品牌、供应链、互联网流量、电商等资源,放大了自己的优势,并且建立了一整套类似小米的互联网运营方法和产品逻辑。

In consequence, Huami rose fast and furiously, indeed. The company needed a mere two years to become the No.1 biggest manufacturer of wearable tech in the Chinese market and the current No.2 (as of September 2016) in the global one. Made in China, in every way. In contrast, the 2015 speck of stalled innovation at Huami’s European and American start-up company counterparts led to a downright decline in investment for activity tracker designer FitBit, a crossfire of cutbacks at wearable products creator Jawbone, the sale of activity trackers and wearable technology booster Misfit and the gradual demise of smart watch builder Pebble.

因此,华米短短2年做到了中国市场第一,全球前三。相比之下,由于欧美同行的创业公司在创新上的失速,导致了上市的Fitbit被投资者看跌,Jawbone裁员,Misfit被收购,Pebble日渐式微。

With the arrested growth of this big European and American start-up batch, a number of newly baptized Chinese wearable tech companies saw their big break to bear faster and farther innovation across virgin categories. Fitbit had begun to rest on its laurels, unable to take on a leading role in the quest for entrepreneurial innovation. In this fashion, the overall set-up of the wearable tech industry, as well as the ever-accompanying rat-race, gradually changed…

当这一批欧美创业公司失速的时候,一批新的中国创业公司已经在可穿戴新品类的创新中走得更快、更远了。Fitbit开始固步自封,完全担不起创业公司中的创新领导者的角色。于是,整个可穿戴产业的格局,也在这样的竞速中渐渐发生了改变。

Coming up in Part II: From IT to I.T., are we ready to Huami wear? 

 

Featured Image: Huami Technology.