Fashion

Why is Fashion such a significant issue with smart clothing?

Fashion: At Thegupo — and via our accelerator, Thegupo — we think that there is much to learn about a new market from the entrepreneurs who are carving it out and leading the charge with creative businesses and products. We recently interviewed Jeremy Wall, Founder and CEO of Lumenus, on wearables and the rise of smart clothes and textiles.

Q: Do you believe that the general public is ready for linked clothing?

A: Nope, simple as that—it has not yet reached the inflection point sought by “mass consumers.” The majority of the advantages are now available only to these tiny niche sectors at the professional level: sports, artists, and the workplace. However, the workplace is critical here—because it makes no difference whether you “need it,” if you are required to wear it as part of a uniform, this is where first adoption occurs.

Q: What is the primary impediment to the widespread adoption of smart fabrics today?

A: The primary impediment facing smart textiles at the moment is cost… We have the capacity to include a slew of incredible capabilities directly into the textile itself, not simply cumbersome electronics stitched or connected to the fabric—but directly into the fibres and polymers itself.

However, we are on the cutting edge of this incredible breakthrough. I attended NC State’s College of Textiles, which conducts some of the world’s top research. It’s just a truth that it’s still in the laboratories and isn’t ready for broad market adoption owing to cost, but also, and related to the previous issue, who really needs it right now, particularly at that ticket price?

Q: How will recent breakthroughs in textile technology affect customers’ present value proposition?

A: Every day, we hear about breakthrough technology being transformed into businesses that just do not have the requisite legs to stand on. This is where my key concept of “collaborative innovation” becomes critical to our market’s success. By merging the resources and capabilities of smaller companies and established market giants, we will see a significant increase in the number of helpful goods reaching the market, rather than merely “runway notions destined to stay tech-couture.”

This ability to scale beyond early adopters (think Under Armour and HTC collaborating) results in an enormous amount of accessible data, as you can now access the millions of existing Under Armour clients to harness all that data—and it’s the big data play that enables all of it to be aggregated and made actionable, contextualised, and optimised for the mass public, rather than individual users.

I believe that the most critical aspect will be the expansion of IoT and the consolidation of what was previously a diaspora of data and users into a more uniform source where it can be merged for the benefit of all users.

Q: Which businesses are leading the way in adopting smart textile initiatives, and which are lagging behind?

A: Google has long been regarded as a market leader in every field, and with Project Jacquard, they are not shying away from smart clothes. They are, however, doing it correctly by working with Levi’s to produce a collaborative invention in which both parties contribute their skills to create something better than the sum of its parts.

To be honest, would anybody outside of the Bay Area ever purchase a “Google Jacket?” No. And would you really purchase a piece of hardware technology from Levi’s? No. That is why merging these two concepts into a single product is an example of businesses doing things well.

However, you have to consider Athos as the 500-pound gorilla in the world of smart clothing right now, as they’re still figuring out exactly who their customer is and how to maximise the incredible technology they’ve built—but doing it all on their own has limited them to what they could have accomplished through meaningful partnerships; building a brand is extremely difficult, but collaborating with an established brand is actually quite simple, if the partner is the right one.

You have to admire Kevin Plank’s work at Under Armour; it hasn’t been their own internal invention, but the vision to identify the proper industries and buy the firms that would expedite their journey to being a market leader in technology—both hardware and software. However, when you consider corporations like Nike and their failing fitness tracker, it’s reasonable to think that Tinker Hatfield and the E.A.R.L. aren’t the only technologies they’re developing inside…

However, once they disclose it, the big concern is how the market will react, given this has all been done behind closed doors, while Under Armour is always the first to let you know when anything is coming down the pipeline. (Using future girl as an example of their CGI team going too far and really setting themselves up to over-promise and under-deliver because to the technology being 20 years away.)

Is being trendy sufficient? What do customers really want from wearable technology?

A: It’s difficult for a technology business to understand excellent design, but it’s almost impossible for them to understand ‘fashion,’ which encompasses more than just beautiful design but also the psychology of trends in terms of fit, function, and style. Fashion is insufficient for even the fashion business, since it is very cyclical and difficult to anticipate what will land when. When technology is added to the situation, it nearly becomes a gimmick, and no corporation wants to be seen as making frivolous gizmos for the sake of it.

However, consumers want practical direction and feedback from their wearables in order to get true contextual insights. This is where it must be nicely designed, but it must also have a core purpose that is more than simply attractive design, but rather advantages that really enhance consumers’ daily lives. Again, I believe that a large portion of this adoption will be driven by the workplace and subsequently extended to the consumer.

Q: Which corporate sectors stand to benefit the most from the use of wearable technology and smart clothing?

A: The largest advantage accrues to high-risk vocational workers—my firm Lumenus began with the consumer as its primary market, but we always recognised that the workplace was where we wanted to be. When it comes to developing safety items, it’s difficult to persuade consumers to buy since safety is inherently “uncool.” Consider how many individuals wear helmets voluntarily.

However, you’ve never seen someone so hip that they’re afraid to wear a helmet on a work site for fear of being fired. While this forced adoption is a necessary first step, it is the real industries that will benefit from increased safety, production, accountability, efficiency, and cost savings. Augmented Reality (AR) is an excellent example; but, outside of social media filters, we seldom see AR in usage by the common individual. However, businesses have been experimenting with augmented reality in warehouses, firefighters’ heads-up displays, and even agriculture for quality inspections and field repairs.

Q: What was the most difficult aspect of starting Lumenus?

A: The most difficult element has been identifying the proper partners; in such a young business, there are no market leaders in components, assembly, or even distribution. Therefore, you must seek out individuals who are looking forward, far ahead, since anybody who is just attempting to catch up to yesterday’s buzz phrases is already behind. It’s been challenging to identify trusted suppliers for our requirements since they can’t just be a little part of our supply chain when you’re attempting to develop something entirely new—they must be a partner. Identifying partners that fully understand your vision, not only for the product’s first or second generation, but for the wider solution you’re attempting to achieve.

For Lumenus, that mission is “How do we make safety ubiquitous and inherent in all people,” which may sound like a lofty goal, but it is precisely what we want to accomplish, and thus we cannot simply find an LED supplier who enjoys lights or a PCB manufacturer who desires a paycheck—but finding partners who share that vision and set of values requires them to work harder on their own to bring to market products that were initially beyond their capability—simply b.

Q: Which businesses are doing it correctly? Which goods have wowed you?

A: Without going into detail about the firms I like — or criticising some of the giants who have made some serious errors — I’ll highlight two relatively obscure companies that I believe are leading the industry in the right direction and doing outstanding work.

MYO: They are a smaller startup that I backed on Kickstarter in 2015 since they were located in my area and had an admirable purpose. Today, they see themselves as the future of gesture control. Fashion, It is this wider vision, which has grown organically since its beginning, that identified pain issues and honed down on that goal via research and market input. They’ve made SDKs accessible for a variety of operating systems and a developer site that enables anybody to build on what they’ve created—which blends collaborative creativity with crowdsourcing, which is the ultimate aim, in my opinion.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not sure whether this firm will dominate the market, but they’ve gotten an early start on an interesting industry—exoskeletons. What they’ve done really well is to begin with a core market of “industrial athletes” and quickly establish an addressable market, however this does not guarantee market adoption. They have significant momentum in a market that will continue to grow in size as firms work on human longevity and “augmented superpowers.”

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