As I sit at my desk, my fitness tracker buzzes every now and then to remind me to get up and move – after all, sitting is the new smoking, and long periods of inactivity are detrimental to health. While I appreciate the reminder, sometimes I can’t help staring at my trusty cheerleader and wishing it were a bit more… attractive. At the risk of sounding shallow, I don’t like the fact that this rubber device strapped on my wrist doesn’t go with all my outfits. And, it’s bulky enough that it often catches on my linens, startling me awake at night, which we all know isn’t good for REM sleep.
This desire for style meets function is shaping the wearables market, giving rise to devices that not only track calories burned, prompt activity and measure heart rate and the quality of sleep, but also look good doing it.
In a study, “Factors Influencing the Adoption of Smart Wearable Devices,” researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology confirmed that aesthetics plays an important role in the appeal of wearables. The findings, published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, emphasize the duel role of fashion accessory and technology, which renders wearables “fashionology.”
In a recent column for Forbes, Michael R. Solomon, author of Marketers Tear Down These Walls! Liberating the Postmodern Consumer, writes: “Although these devices are tech-centred, style still plays an important role for many consumers. They seek beauty, status and peer approval from wearable technology, just as with anything else they display on their bodies.”
Devices that are indistinguishable from regular jewellery are making their way into the mainstream. Fashion-forward companies, such as Fossil, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and others are now offering wearable tech accessories.
Closer to home, Montreal-based Blinq offers a refreshing luxury smart ring collection. Cofounders David Mamane and David Sigal are both jewellers so it’s only fitting they bring a fine jewellery aesthetic to the wearables market.
“There was nothing out there for the fashion-conscious consumer that was more discreet,” Mamane says of the inspiration behind the gemstone rings, which come in gold and silver. “Our ring is something you would wear regardless of the tech.”
That’s not to say the technology isn’t important, in fact it’s what makes the ring stand out. Take all the things people love and expect in a fitness tracker and add to that a special SOS feature that is proving popular with an unexpected audience – caregivers and older consumers turned off by traditional “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” personal safety alarms.
“People assume the older you get, the less tech-savvy you are, but today that’s a misperception,” says Mamane, adding that wearers can tap the ring to send a distress message to preselected emergency contacts. “We use geolocation technology to show exactly where the wearer is, whether at home or out and about. If they fall or are in distress they can tap their finger for help.”
While the feature has mass appeal, it’s a breath of fresh air for older consumers, who, according to data from eMarketer, are positioned to be a major driver in the growth of wearables. Sales of wearable technology (which, by the way, goes well beyond jewellery) are expected to surge in coming years as technology gets smarter, with the market set to reach $150 billion by 2027, according to market research and business insights firm IDTechEX.
Studies show health and well-being are at the heart of this interest, especially for Boomers who are driving the longevity economy, looking for ways to proactively manage health and maintain independence as they age.
Oura Health Ltd. is a Finnish technology company offering an award-winning wellness ring with apps that track and analyze sleep quality and stages, as well as important indicators of recovery, such as resting heart rate, nocturnal heart rate variability and body temperature changes.
Sleep quality is a major concern for older adults, says co-founder Virpi Tuomivaara. “Our chronotype and circadian rhythm go hand-in-hand: It’s all about sleep, daytime alertness, memory, learning and especially hormone balance. The more you appreciate the importance of sleep, the better you can perform and enjoy your life when aging.”
While the health link is essential, so too is the overall look. “Technology has been adapted to make the design more intriguing so that it allows everyone to find a ring design that fits their style,” says Tuomivaara.
Today’s wearables deliver on all fronts – technology, health and style – appealing to the fashionista in all of us.
“Design sells. The best example is the MP3 player, which existed long before the iPod,” says Mamane of how design elevates a category. “Style is now penetrating the wearables category because customers are demanding it. People want to showcase their individual style and individual taste, all the while staying connected in discreet ways.”
Stylish and Functional
BELLABEAT: Dubbed a “tech-driven wellness company for women,” Bellabeat offers a variety of fashion-forward health trackers (with meditation features to help
manage stress) that can be worn as a necklace, clip or bracelet. Plus, data is easily synched with Apple Health or Google Fit.
MICHAEL KORS: This fashion-first smartwatch is aimed at the traditional men’s market, but with extras, such as step counting, as well as an easy-to-read display that you can customize with your favourite features and health or fitness apps.
OURA: Countless studies emphasize the importance of sleep to overall health, weight management, productively and performance. Insomnia is the most common sleep problem for those 60 and older. The Oura ring is an activity tracker that doesn’t stop when then sun goes down, tracking your heart rate continuously during the night with infrared LED sensors. Through the Oura app, you can see it in five-minute sections and access daily feedback to improve health.
FOSSIL: Fossil Group is a leader in the smartwatch category, and its new Gen 4 – Q collection is arm candy with a bite. These touchscreen watches feature GPS, activity and heart rate tracking, while offering notifications and payment options on the go. Powered with Wear OS by Google, the watches are compatible with iPhone and Android phones.
READ: Wearable Health Technology Set to Take Off as Apple Joins the Fray