In 2015 wearable technology made significant strides towards being accepted as a fixture in everyday day lives of consumers. The shift has been led primarily by trends in health awareness and a knock-on rise in the popularity and consumption of fitness trackers.
Apple, so often the market mover and shaker that others follow, made its first venture into the wearable technology sector, releasing the much hyped Apple Watch. It became the best-selling wearable technology device to date, with a mammoth shipment of 4.2 million Apple Watches in the second quarter of 2015. Sales of the Cupertino timepiece were so strong, they overtook those of Fitbit, Samsung and Xiaomi along with all other competing smartwatch vendors.
Apple’s success in uniting two different genres — jewelry and technology — has paved the way for new demand, and given the market impetus to a plethora of new companies focusing on this new crossover niche: smart jewelry.
In 2016, this new niche could be set to disrupt the wearable technology market even further, with fashion designers, MIT students and numerous startups investing in research and development to bring earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings to market that can blend into our digital lives.
Smart jewelry has been on the market for a while, but early attempts were obtrusive, unfashionable and difficult to use. This next generation of product designers have made ease of use, luxury and high-end aesthetics a top priority, creating pieces that use all of the high-quality materials one would naturally associate with classical jewelry such as gold, silver platinum and precious stones.
This shift in design values has only been made possible by innovations on the technical side. Jerry Wilmink, the head of a biomedical laboratory and founder of WiseWear, has developed a patented Bluetooth signal that can be emitted through metal surfaces, a development that is opening up the way for use of more traditional materials, without compromising the Bluetooth technology. This allows jewelry pieces to communicate and pair with smartphones.
The computing power of modern mobile devices has given coders the perfect platform to create apps that can interact with smart jewelry in very sophisticated ways.
The end result? Rings, necklaces, bracelets and even earrings that can receive emails, texts, and call notifications, track the wearer’s physical activity, measure vital signs such as heart rate, breathing patterns, posture, stress levels and even regulate body temperature. Unique vibration sequences can even be used to identify specific contacts or messages containing keywords.
There are also secondary, less obvious uses for smart jewelry, such as enhancing personal safety. Wilminks’s idea is an ingenious one. “In the event that your feel unsafe you tap the bracelet three times, it sends a message to your loved ones of your exact Google location.”
Some designers have also gone down a modular route, with the computer unit that makes the smart jewelry transferable, so continuity of the same functions can be enjoyed across one collection of different pieces jewelry.
A recent survey of consumer attitudes towards wearable tech conducted by found that nearly one-third plan to buy some form in the next two years, with enthusiasm between male and female almost identical. Approx two-thirds wanted a device that blended in with clothes and possessions, and around one-half see a fitness related function as important when considering to buy wearable tech.
Wilmink’s primary concern in the development of his own range of smart jewelry is to produce something fashionable first and foremost. The ultimate goal for him, and others wanting to make a mark in the sector, is to produce items that can rival the functionality of an Apple watch but surpass it in style. That is certainly a lofty aspiration.
Wilmink also described the experience of collaborating with fashion designers as “devil wears Prada meets the nerds.” A combination that, if replicated across this burgeoning sector, could produce some interesting results.
[Image via Mota]