Component Technology for Wearables Has Arrived

Screen print with LEDs. Demo by EMS

Technology That is Here:

  1. Solid state batteries that can bend and withstand wash cycles by Bright Volt
  2. Stretchy conductive ink that can be integrated with most fabrics by Dupont or EMS
  3. More robust conductive yarns and textiles by Bekaert
  4. Smaller and smaller electronic components like LTE, Micro-controllers, and more by Flexxtronics and Qualcomm
  5. E-textiles Connectors by Principled Design
Demo Circuits by EMS.
Bright Volt makes Solid State Batteries for Safer Wearable Devices
Conductive fabrics and narrow goods by Bekaert.

Beyond The Hype Cycle

As Pankaj Kedia, Sr. Director & Global Head of Smart Wearables Segment at Qualcomm Technologies, said at WEAR Conferences last week; we’re just getting beyond the “Hype Cycle.” From his perspective, just now that the press is indicating that “wearables are dead,” it is the time to invest. More component technologies are ready and available for purchase than ever before and we’re not going backwards.

Dealing with the Data

Companies specialized in dealing with specific types of data are emerging, like Firstbeat, a company that processes heart rate data for sports and well-being. Firstbeat isn’t a hardware company, they deal with specialized algorithms for processing heart rate data. They can interface with different kinds of hardware in order to achieve this goal. In the future, with this model, brands don’t need to own or handle the data and it can be openly used for multiple devices and applications on a broader, more collaborative platform.

Democratization

The beginnings of a wearables ecosystem are here. Like in the textiles industry, small brands will access the goods from an industry rather than goods that are custom made for a project. As this ecosystem becomes stronger, the integrations are easier, and maybe embedding electronics into garments does become common place.

Balancing Fashion and Function

How do we learn from the failures that happened these past five years? Dave Henson, Founder of twenty2B, offered a reflective presentation of the delicate balance between fashion and function in wearables product. Check out their website to see how his team is integrating technologies in new and fashionable ways. Henson says it’s important that these products carry an “equal amount of fashion with equal amount of function.” One of the key take aways for technologists is the importance of self-expression and identity. In Henson’s words, how can wearables express “who [I] want to be and how [I] want to be seen to society?” At least for now, this type of expression has been relatively untouchable for a wide range of consumers.

Monocrane Pendant available at twenty2b’s shop. Photo by twenty2b.

Branding Looking for Help Building Wearables

If you are a brand looking for help integrating textiles-based wearables, check out our friend Madison Maxey and her team at Loomia. They are based in Brooklyn, NY and have worked with companies from Google to Calvin Klein to deliver high quality and beautiful results in this space.

By the way, the fact that these components exist is not just enough to make wearables development ‘easy.’ It’s an indicator that we’re continuing to move in this direction and building an industry around it.

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