Will wearables really become jewellery?

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How, when, and if wearables will turn into jewellery is a question I’ve been pondering for a long time, as part of my passion for the Internet of Things and health/wellness technology.

During the last few weeks I’ve attended several conferences around Europe, discovering many new wearables that are about to come to market – and two of them caught my attention. Do these upcoming products mark a transition away from plastic wristbands, and into a world where wearables are judged as jewellery? Let’s take a look.

The first is the Kairos T-Band (http://kairostband.com), a smart band that can be attached to any conventional mechanical watch so that it doubles as a smartwatch. Thinking about smartwatches, I always turn my attention to my wrist and wonder if I will ever be able to switch from a beautiful piece of Swiss manufacturing and design to a technology device. Well, these guys have somehow answered my wish.

Second is MoodMetric (http://www.moodmetric.com), a smart ring that measures autonomous nervous system signals that can be used to understand emotional reactions and improve quality of life. My wife would certainly prefer to wear a ring rather than the usual plastic wristband that she’s been wearing for research.

It looks to me clearly as if wearables are now opening up into becoming jewellery items. But I believe we’ll see a focus on fashion rather than simply jewellery in the narrow sense.

With the Internet of Things as a complementary trend, we should expect the things we use daily to ‘come to life’ and either collect important data about us or help us achieve things more effectively and efficiently. Wearables actually manage to help in both ways: they can either be health and wellness trackers or payment and security tools that use your heart beat to login and authorise transactions. It sounds futuristic but it’s happening.

I expect to see more and more successful fashion designers partnering with technologists to make their creations smarter. Imagine if we were able to bring to life anything we wear by adding sensors to key points of our bodies, contributing to a continuous health assessment. I believe this is more likely to be the future of the ecosystem rather than the ‘one wearable does it all’ solution. I see openness and specialisation in this market, rather than monopoly and centralisation.

A few more examples reinforce this point:

The start-up Sensoria (http://www.sensoriainc.com) uses a smart sock that is paired with an anklet to automatically detect the type and level of activity based on pressure signals coming from the foot of the wearer. Sensors in the sock communicate data to the anklet, which then can relay the information to the user via an app. For example, it can track a runner's regular form and send an alert when he or she is making an injurious movement.

Even more intimate than smart socks, intelligent sports bras can track users' performance. The NuMetrex (http://www.numetrex.com) sports bra has a small transmitter that snaps to the garment to track a user's heart rate.

Wearable Solar (http://wearablesolar.nl) is using the technology to make lightweight wired garments that enable the wearer to charge a smartphone up to 50 percent if worn in the sun for a full hour.

Finally, in his fall 2013 collection, fashion designer Asher Levine (http://fashion.asherlevine.com) included tracking chips that allow items to be located by the owner using a customised TrackR app (http://www.engadget.com/2013/02/13/asher-levine-fall-2013-fashion-line-goes-future-forward/).

But what troubles me is thinking that each of these solutions will have its own app, and will fight for space and attention in your phone’s notification centre.

The real challenge could turn out to be making sense of all this data, and the risk is that one day we will just give up on it. There is already a huge drop-out rate for wearable devices.

This is why I feel that ‘specialisation’ is key. Our bodies are complex pieces of machinery that, unlike cars, do not come equipped with a single point to monitor everything. When we go to the doctor, he or she performs routine checks on different parts – not only our wrists, for example. So why would we expect a smartband to solve all our monitoring problems, even if designed as a beautiful piece of jewellery?

With this simple idea in mind, I believe that wearables as we know them today are just the beginning of a revolution. What started with FitBit, Jawbone, and Nike FuelBand as devices to help me track my health and fitness activity will become even more disruptive technology. Empatica (https://www.empatica.com) has developed a smart band that helps monitor epilepsy. Bluesense (http://www.blusense-diagnostics.com) has developed SenseLab, a low-cost, user-friendly and cloud-connected device for diabetes Type II monitoring.

Imagine where this trend will bring us – especially when we recall that the first iPhone was released less than eight years ago.

For me, it’s an exciting challenge to make a contribution in this exciting area. Together with Giulia, my wife who is a fashion accessories designer, we are developing new ideas that combine inspiration from the worlds of fashion, wellness, technology, and jewellery.