Wearable tech gets pretty practical

Anne Marie Stephen

By Anne Marie Stephen, Founder and CEO, Kwolia

Many are trying to anticipate the future of wearable tech adoption among consumers. There are still a few moving parts to how quickly consumers will be adopting the technology. Trust, utility, usability and fashion-friendly appeal all impact the future of wearables.

With the long-anticipated and successful launch of the Apple Watch collection last week, we may be witnessing the first wave of mass consumer adoption of wearable technology.  

Fashion and function are a critical combination to creating success with wearables. It was no small move by Apple when the tech retailer recruited the talents of Angela Ahrents, the former Burberry CEO who led the fashion retailer toward a successful global expansion and spent her career in fashion marketing and merchandising. The Apple Watch is targeted toward a broad consumer base, from its Sport collection starting at $349, to the luxury gold-encrusted Edition collection that tops out at $17,000. 

Consumers expect optimal tech performance from Apple's new watch, but the aesthetic quality of the products will be critical to the successful adoption of the technology.

Wearable technology isn't limited to smartwatches and Fitbits, as a fashion technology showcase at the Mobile World Congress demonstrated last month in Barcelona, where designs included laser-lit dresses and an LED-bedecked handbag.  

New products in wearable tech and fashion tech are often slammed for failing to deliver on the design front, but the showcase demonstrated some of the creative efforts being leveraged to elevate fashion to the fore of the burgeoning trend. Practical is getting a pretty makeover.

Organized by the 360Fashion Network and the Mobile Entertainment Forum, the presentation showcased the latest smart devices by LG, with its retro-inspired Urbane smartwatch that runs webOS and integrates with Audi connect via NFC for keyless vehicle entry, which works even if the watch is switched off or the battery is dead. The smartwatch could even prove to be a lifesaver: it includes a health monitoring feature that can alert the wearer if sleepiness or stress could impair driving abilities.

Sony is pushing for a fashion facelift by partnering with designers such as Ted Baker to create stylish bands for its Smartwatch 3, a waterproof Android Wear gadget that boasts GPS and 4G cell service for placing and receiving calls. It also offers users the opportunity to swap out watch faces, and it mounts on bicycles as a health monitor.

The quirkier wearables, however, were the true scene-stealers. Hedoco's ledBAGs are otherwise minimalist felt tote-style carryalls distinguished by a pattern of LED lights that can illuminate both the bag's interior and exterior, banishing the days of digging fruitlessly in the shadowy depths of dark, cluttered purses. The lights are designed to turn on when the bag is opened, but users can deactivate the lights or keep them on all the time by accessing a rechargeable battery module.

And for the woman who wants to be center stage, look no further than the laser dress created by Polish couture designer Michal Starost and engineer Bruce Bateman. The strapless number features a short figure-hugging skirt overlaid by a full, transparent longer skirt lit up by lasers, thus creating the dazzling visual effect of atoms encircling the wearer.

Pretty and practical indeed.

Anne Marie Stephen is the founder and CEO of retail technology consultancy, Kwolia.

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