Wearables Evolving to Combine Fashion and Function

Wearables Evolving to Combine Fashion and Function

As more wearable devices flood the market, fashion designers and product developers share their thoughts on where the market is headed.

The intersection of fashion and fitness is the new frontier of wearable technology, a panel of fashion designers and tech experts said at the FastA/W15 event during MADE Fashion Week in New York City.

The wearables market, which is quickly expanding, is well on its way to marrying smart tech with fashion. According to Gartner, 30 percent of smart wearable devices will be inconspicuous to the eye by 2017. But as developers and designers continue to make progress, the industry still has its challenges.

"When it comes down to wearable technology, it has to look good," said Carmelo Anthony, NBA player and co-founder of VC firm Melo7 Tech Partners. "No one is going to wear something they don't think looks good on them."

While technology companies are skilled at developing devices, they're no expert when it comes to fashion, said Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel.

"You can't have engineers in a conference room in Santa Clara come up with something fashionable. Instead, we are going to build platforms that we can hand to the fashion industry and say, 'What could we do together to make it something people want to wear?'"

Unsurprisingly, fashion designers feel the same way about technology: They want to create clothing and accessories without the stresses of integrating technology. Sabine Seymour, founder and CEO of fashion technology companies Moonlab and Moondial, said that designers should be able to pick and choose from a menu of technology like they would when choosing a zipper for a garment.

"I'm only interested in making technology so simple that we can integrate it into a textile into our garments. Today, it's possible," she said.

Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel's New Devices Group, agreed that simple technology is not just what users want, it's what companies have to provide. "Technology has to be frictionless," he said.

After the panel discussion, moderator Brent Blum, wearable technology practice lead at Accenture, discussed the market landscape and four trends that will impact both consumers and the enterprise.

1. Legacy systems limit wearables

Many companies have invested millions of dollars into legacy systems such as ERP, CRM or even desktop computers. Now, if those companies want to add cool devices, like wearables, to make their employees' jobs easier, they will have to spend serious time integrating and updating those systems.

Blum said that workers in the field are one group that needs integration to happen sooner rather than later so they can use new devices to work more efficiently. "It's a mix of a technology challenge and business process challenge," he said. "Integration will pay huge dividends for companies."

2. Augmented reality holds great potential

Augmented reality is moving away from a futuristic idea and toward real applications and adoption. Blum said that an augmented reality device like Microsoft HoloLens will be aimed at consumers first, but could be a game-changer in the enterprise later on.

"It has potential to be a new human computer interaction paradigm. The idea of manipulating 3D holograms with your hands is just not something we've never seen before."

The ability to visualize, demonstrate and manipulate a work process in 3D will make a huge impact, but Blum said new development of depth perception capabilities could be the tipping point. Devices like HoloLens, ODG and Daqri are ones to watch in this arena.

3. Devices should meet aesthetic and lifestyle needs

There are so many wearable devices in the market that help manage fitness, health and sports, but the ones that stick will work well and look good simultaneously.

"The device that integrates with your lifestyle, continuously adds value and informs you of new ways to make your life better will be the one that wins the race," Blum said. He also said that people will prefer a device that helps them make improvements or better decisions with data over one that doesn't.

4. Work from the same security rulebook

Developers should apply standard security best practices to wearables while considering the data they collect and who can see it. Blum said that even though you may think no one would be interested in your personal data, exercise caution.

"Today the data that's being gathered isn't that big of a deal. Russian hackers aren't trying to figure out how many steps I took," he said. But it can be a slippery slope. He suggests keeping personal and work data separate so your employer doesn't have access to your sleep or fitness data, for example. Otherwise, that health data could come back and bite you in the form of a higher health insurance rate.

Though wearables will increasingly require a stylish touch for wider adoption, Blum said "there still needs to be that hook of, 'I can't live without this thing.'"

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