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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Coming up in Part II: From IT to I.T., are we ready to Huami wear?
Featured Image: Huami Technology.