Intel & Digital Fashion: The Birth of Smart Clothing


There were two interesting announcements from Intel this week: the first was on a new pair of Smart glasses from Oakley, which imbed voice command/response to create a more useful digital trainer, and the second was on a huge spectrum of smart jewelry, accessories, and shoes all designed to make you healthier.  Given that we are often pounded for not eating right or exercising enough this is a good thing, I think, but I also wonder how much nagging we are going to take before we chose to become nudists?  

Overall I think this is a good thing but I can see us approaching the point where we could be over monitored and where help moves from being helpful to becoming excessively annoying.  Let’s talk about that this week. 

Design Forward

Let’s start with the good part.  Typically, new technology is pretty ugly.  We saw this with Google Glass in particular and the proposed Google Car looks like a rolling wart.  Only some technology geeks buy ugly tech, as the rest of the market generally waits until the product not only does interesting things, but looks good.  That is largely why screen phones failed before the iPhone, and tablets failed before the iPad.  Apple unequally wedded interesting tech, with good ease of use, and stunning designs to create products that, at least initially, performed incredibly well in the market.  

What Intel showcased this week are a collection of products that are design forward where both the user interface and physical design are pleasing. And, you don’t have to read a thick manual or be ashamed to use the device.  

This is the way wearable tech should always be, designed to enhance not only your capability but your appearance, be easy to use, and become something you are proud – rather than embarrassed – to wear. 

The Oakley Radar Pace

Like all things Oakley, Radar Pace are not only attractive glasses, they are really expensive glasses coming in at around $450.  The glasses contain Intel Real Speech, Bluetooth connectivity, internal sensors, and they are water resistant.   Intel Real Speech is a new conversational user interface that allows you to talk to the device and have it talk back to you.  Increasingly this will be the way we interact with devices and this apparently is what comes after products like Amazon Echo.   The internal sensors are accelerometer, gyroscope, pressure, humidity and proximity sensors.  These will tell the glasses just how hard you are working out, how fast you are going on your bike or snow skis, or how hard you are running.  This will enable the coach – either remote or digital – to keep track of your progress and provide timely and relevant advice.

                     Image via Bigstock

TOME Fashion Week

The other products that showcased this week were largely from TOME.  Perhaps the most interesting was an attractive handbag, which could measure ambient temperature, barometric pressure, and toxic gasses.  I’m going to avoid the obvious function – to identify the person in an elevator who broke wind – and focus on the part where it could alert you to major changes in the weather in time to dig out an umbrella or run for some kind of cover.  Another TOME product was a leather bracelet that looks nothing like a typical digital exercise band yet has similar functionality.  This is very much like the new trend to make smartwatches actually look like watches because, as Apple found out, most folks apparently don’t want to wear an iPod Mini on their wrists no matter how capable it is.  

Finally, they partnered with Baja East and Fila on connected shoes, which are likely a better place to put most excursive sensors than your wrist is.  For instance, when I’m using my Fitbit I find that when using a stationary bike or treadmill it works better stuffed in my sock than on my wrist because I don’t move my arms much. 

Wrapping Up:  A Taste of What’s to Come

I think this is just the beginning. While we haven’t yet figured out how to put tech into clothing that can be washed, this idea of concealing the tech behind designs as opposed to exposing it seems vastly more sustainable.  People, in general, at least for now, want solutions that are invisible and attractive; not really obvious and ugly and, of course, they want it to be both easy to use and easy to learn.  This next generation showcasing Intel’s Curie platform looks to be far closer to what the market is looking for than the stuff that has come before.  As a result, you will likely find a smartwatch, handbag, pair of shoes, or handbag that isn’t just helpful but also something that you can be proud to wear or carry.  Now that’s progress I can get behind.  

However, we will need to make sure this stuff increasingly interoperates and doesn’t all try to talk at once.  I can imagine hell being a near constant argument or power play between all of your worn technical gear that could drift from just annoying all the way to intolerable pretty quickly.  Intel has made great progress in coverage now they need to drive interoperability to insure we aren’t driven insane by our warring wearable technology.   

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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