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October 14, 2015
Waiting for Wearables
 
Today, one in ten people own a smart watch, according to GlobalWebIndex. One in ten Americans own a wearable fitness monitor, though just five actually use one daily, according to The PwC Health Research Institute.

Beyond the wrist, smart, connected apparel is the newest frontier in mobile wearables. A PwC survey of 1,000 Americans found a growing demand for wearables to help exercise better, eat better, and collect and track medical information. Recent technical innovations and the ability to connect garments to smartphones and ultimately to servers will accelerate the ability to meet this demand and will spike interest and adoption in what promises to be a monster fashion-fitness category.

Big and small players are developing connected apparel. Under Armour launched Armour39, a biometric tracking strap that can be connected to a smartphone, their MapMyFitness app, Jawbones, Garmins, or Fitbits. In the near future, an individual wearing a sensor-enhanced shirt will track movements, speed, and performance, which will be benchmarked and displayed with an eye toward motivation, corrections in form, or rewards. UA is exploring an alliance with Sports Authority to link improvement in physical activity or meeting fitness goals using connected apparel to earn and redeem loyalty points.

Adidas bought Runtastic for its wearable Runtastic Orbit tracker, an app with more than 70 million users, as a test bed for the integration of connected sports apparel and planned and measured exercise or sports activity.

In Australia, fashion designer Billie Whitehouse and her firm, Wearable Experiments, are exploring a range of smart garments. Her “Funderwear” enables partners to activate sensors embedded in bras, panties, and boxers to sensually “touch” each other across long distances. An “Alert Shirt” uses sensors to replicate the sensations of playing soccer while watching a match on TV. A viewer can slide, kick, or take a hit in sync with their favorite player.

Similarly, sensors woven into in yoga pants measure movements and distances to give the user feedback on form and performance. And her smart coat uses sensors linked to a smartphone’s GPS unit to direct a person along a route by electronically tapping them on the shoulders.

Fashion, fun, utility, and connection are the critical variables driving the evolution of wearables. As new products reach market at scale, costs and technical complexity will plummet. Before too long, wearable apparel will monitor heartbeats, blood sugar, and an array of vital signs in real time with connections to healthcare providers. Trainers and coaches will monitor specific movements or sequences as well as heath-oriented data points. And users will be much more aware of their health, share their progress and challenges with friends on social media, and be connected to services and providers who can make a valuable difference in their lives.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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