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Editor's pick product technology

Ralph Lauren introduces heat-conducting smart jacket for USA Olympics team

Ralph Lauren has launched a smart jacket that will allow the USA Olympics team to keep warm at this year’s Winter games, taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea.

As part of the team’s official uniform, which the brand has been designing for six years, a parka and a bomber jacket each use heat-conducting ink that generates warmth similar to an electric blanket.

“We’re looking back and celebrating what’s iconic and symbolic of America, and merging that with where we’re headed,” says David Lauren, the brand’s chief innovation officer. The uniform, which includes classics of American fashion such as jeans and thick suede gloves, nod to different American frontiers, he adds. “The frontiers of the 1800s and 1900s, and then the frontier of today, which is technology.”

Lauren explains that the design’s top priority was to allow for flexibility: while temperatures in South Korea can reach below zero in the winter, athletes needed to feel equally comfortable wearing the jacket while waiting at the backstage area ahead of the Opening Ceremony. After investigating suitable fabrics, the brand landed on technology.

 

Ralph Lauren's Heated Parka, tech-enabled textiles
Ralph Lauren’s Heated Parka

The garment’s heat is achieved through a special type of carbon and silver ink bonded to the jacket lining, which in keeping with the brand’s roots, were sewn in the shape of an American flag.

The ink connects to a battery pack sewn into the garment, which when fully charged can heat the jacket for up to 11 hours. Athletes can then adjust the temperature up or down via an app.

To develop the jacket, the RL innovation team worked with several US-based  partners such as engineers at Delaware-based tech giant DuPont, who had previously developed heated garments which were deemed to heavy for everyday wear. The brand also worked with Butler Technologies, a high-tech precision screen-printer based in Pittsburgh; apparel manufacturer 99Degrees, who helped bond the heater to the jacket’s lining; Key Tech, a high-tech design firm that helped design the battery packs with user experience in mind; and Principled Design, who designed the connectors that attach the battery pack to the heater in a streamlined way.

A sketch of Ralph Lauren's Olympics opening ceremony outfit connected tech, textiles
A sketch of Ralph Lauren’s Olympics opening ceremony outfit

Lauren explains that the jacket is an experiment towards launching a consumer-facing connected product this year: “Our hope is that we’ll learn enough that we’ll be able to go into production with a different, limited edition jacket for this fall.”

For years, the brand has been experimenting with technology and how it can improve performance when embedded in textiles. In 2015, it launched the PoloTech smart shirt, which captures biometric information and transmits it to an accompanying app, while for the 2016 Summer Olympics, it created a blazer with electroluminescent panels for torch-bearer Michael Phelps.

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Editor's pick product Startups technology

Why the next big streetwear brand could be a wearable tech one

TwentyFour15
TwentyFour15

The biggest observation from Benjamin Males, CEO and co-founder of new fashion and technology brand TwentyFour15, which launched at London Fashion Week this past weekend, is that no one asked how it worked.

“It was a room full of Gen Z consumers, and they all just accepted it existed,” he explains. “This new generation don’t see sci-fi as sci-fi, they see it as a prototype for the future. This consumer we’re going after – they’re not technologically insecure, and the launch proved that – they’ve grown up in a world with ubiquitous internet and smart devices; they have this tech in their DNA.”

TwentyFour15 is a line of app-connected, fibre optic, colour-changing apparel. Males refers to is as a “fashion brand for the digital generation with technology in its DNA”, but what it’s also about is wearable tech moving beyond fitness devices and into popular culture by way of a youth-focused streetwear brand.

In a literal sense, that means t-shirts, a backpack and a bomber jacket (to start with) that are connected via bluetooth to an app that controls the LED lights otherwise embedded in them. Initially, the functionality is kept simple – there’s a colour wheel to shift the shade of the lights and a music feature that lets the user sync them so they also animate to the beat.

The potential longer-term, however, is much wider. The key here is that TwentyFour15 is powered by XO, the agency behind well-known wearable technology feats of the past including Lady Gaga’s flying dress and Richard Nicoll’s light-up Tinkerbell dress.

Head over to Forbes to read more about exactly what this new brand is hoping to achieve and how its streetwear approach is in line with a Silicon Valley hardware company.

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product technology

Rebecca Minkoff launches ‘connected’ bags that provide access to fashion week show

The new connected #AlwaysOn Midnighter handbag from Rebecca Minkoff
The new connected #AlwaysOn Midnighter handbag from Rebecca Minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff is continuing on her tech-enabled journey as a fashion brand, this time introducing smart tags to her new handbag designs in order to offer consumers access to exclusive content and experiences.

Ahead of her fashion week show taking place at The Grove in Los Angeles this weekend, 10 limited edition bags, dubbed the #AlwaysOn Midnighter style, will be available at an exclusive pop-up shop on site. Each one comes with a hangtag that unlocks a ticket to the spring/summer 2017 runway event when scanned.

The initiative is in partnership with apparel branding solutions Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division and Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG. It follows the 2016 announcement of the duo’s #BornDigital concept, which aims to digitise 10 billion items of clothing and accessories over the next three years. The first iteration of this was seen with a limited edition run of jackets from New York menswear brand Rochambeau in October.

Rather than a one-off, in this instance, Rebecca Minkoff has further announced that all of its bags will be “smart” by summer 2017, helping to push towards that vision for the mass spread of #BornDigital wardrobes. Head over to Forbes to read all about what the products provide access to via their digital identities in the cloud.

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mobile product technology

Get your ‘thinking cap’ on – this connected hat combines physical and digital worlds for smart localised experiences

 

Rochambeau's Thinking Cap
Rochambeau’s Thinking Cap

Hot on the heels of its connected jacket that unlocked access to exclusive local experiences, New York menswear brand Rochambeau has introduced a “Thinking Cap” to make wearers smarter wherever they go.

Unveiled as part of its collection for the International Woolmark Prize Final in Paris today, the concept piece is once again a collaboration between the designers, Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG, apparel branding solutions Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division and hybrid retail/media company The New Stand.

It also follows the announcement in 2016 of EVRYTHNG and RBIS’s #BornDigital concept, which aims to digitise 10 billion items of clothing and accessories over the next three years, as well as ties to the much wider trend for the Internet of Things and connected consumer products.

The hat incorporates NFC and QR code labels hidden inside that pull-up content on a mobile web page when scanned. What’s surfaced depends on factors like time of day, as well as location – all of it has been designed for major cultural centres and destination cities including New York, Paris, London and Tokyo.

You can read the full story on Forbes, including insights directly from the Rochambeau team on this idea of connecting consumers directly with experiences through the products they create.
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data Editor's pick product technology

This connected jacket provides VIP access to NYC experiences, demos future of the Internet of Things

connected jacket
The Bright BMBR connected jacket by Rochambeau in collaboration with Avery Dennison and EVRYTHNG

Need an idea for a unique gift this holiday season? How about a jacket that unlocks access to exclusive dining, art, retail and fashion experiences in New York, directly through its own sleeve?

That’s the premise behind a new connected design from New York-based brand Rochambeau, a 2016 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and a Menswear Woolmark award winner. A limited run of just 15 jackets are due for release in December, each one with embedded digital tags that act as a VIP pass to a highly sought-after event, hand-picked by the founders, including a tasting menu for two at Toro restaurant, a personal tour at New Release gallery or velvet rope entry to the most exclusive nightclubs.

The initiative is a partnership with Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division and Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG, following its announcement earlier in 2016 of its #BornDigital concept, which aims to digitize 10 billion items of clothing and accessories over the next three years.

The Bright BMBR jackets, as they’re called, are powered by Avery Dennison’s Janela™ platform. That means a combination of custom NFC chips and QR codes in place under a hidden zipper pocket in the left sleeve, marked by the Romchambeau “R” logo, both of which have serialized codes on them to connect to their data profiles in EVRYTHNG’s IoT cloud. Consumers only have to use their smartphones to access the hidden content behind them – their unique New York experience as well as a signed, numbered piece of artwork inspired by the jacket and an individual “making-of” video. At the end of the fall/winter season, each smart jacket also turns into a New York Fashion Week ticket to Rochambeau’s spring 2017 runway show.

Head over to Forbes to read all about why that matters – what role experience plays in fashion consumption today, from the perspective of Rochambeau co-founder Laurence Chandler, and the importance of data in making connected clothing all the more valuable for the user and the brand, from Andy Hobsbawm, CMO and co-founder of EVRYTHNG.

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Editor's pick film product technology

Imagining the virtual future: what connected clothing might do for us

Connected clothing
Connected clothing as imagined via the Janela Smart Products Platform

One of the most interesting things about connected clothing at this point is imagining the possibilities it will actually bring – do we really need tops that light up, shirts that tell us what the weather is doing, or the ability to see some of our social media feeds embedded in the laces on our shoes? When we stop and think about it, what do we truly want our garments to do and achieve for us?

The fact of the matter is, the things we wear are indeed getting smarter, and yet we’re still waiting for the perfect use cases to make us all want to jump on board and buy them.

The good news is, there’s potential that’s all set to change. You may remember a few months ago the announcement that Avery Dennison, a global leader in branding, labelling and RFID solutions, and Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG, teamed up to introduce 10 billion items of connected clothing over the next three years.

That deal will mean brands and retailers have to think less about how to get their wares on the grid, and instead focus on what exactly they want them to be able to do. As Niall Murphy, CEO and co-founder of EVRYTHNG, said at launch: “We’re taking the manufacturing complexity out of the challenge list by pre-solving it for brands. No longer is it about how am I going to get my 500 million pairs of sneakers to have a digital capability, because it’s already there. Now it’s about what applications you’re going to create, and a focus on real end value for the user.”

On the consumer side (digital clothing has many business applications also), he envisioned everything from finding our shoes when we’ve lost them, to figuring out how to wash our clothes properly, looking for style tips on how to wear items, and even searching for how to buy a new version of the same piece.

In a bid to show how “born digital” clothing could work, the duo have now launched a video (as above) detailing the possibilities a consumer might encounter through the Janela Smart Products Platform. Reminiscent of the virtual wardrobe in 1990s film Clueless, it focuses on the idea that new items just bought will instantly appear in a user’s app, enabling them to help visualise outfits to wear based on what they own, as well as get advice on other things to purchase to match. It also turns to the end of a garment’s life cycle by helping show them how and what they can recycle.

EVRYTHNG has reportedly had to expand its sales team in order to keep up with demand from brands and manufacturers since the announcement. It is also seeing numerous new use cases emerge in things like supply chain, where identity on an item can help solve compliance issues and use data to join up fragmentation in the sector.

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data product technology

Wearable tech’s future: Beyond fitness trackers to $160bn in 10 years

smartwatch
The wearable tech market will be worth $160bn in 10 years

Have you noticed how the hype around wearable technology has died down lately? A couple of years ago you couldn’t move for some expert predicting that we’d all be talking into our jackets and lighting up the room with our jeans.

So has wearable tech gone from being the Next Big Thing to Yesterday’s Thing? Not at all, in fact a new report shows how its NBT status has evolved to make it a much more nuanced market and one that’s set to grow fast.

The wearable tech market is currently worth around $30bn but will hit $160bn in the next 10 years, the report from IDTechEx says. On the way, it’ll be worth $40bn in the next two years and $100bn by 2023.

Not that it’s going to achieve all that just on the back of the fitness trackers and smartwatches that currently dominate the market. After all, the former category has proved popular but prices are relatively low, while the latter hasn’t exactly grabbed mass consumer imagination just yet.

What’s needed is for wearables to expand into other areas of our lives and IDTechEx says it will do just that. It believes there will be almost 40 product sub-categories in the next 10 years, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, connected clothing, smart eyewear (particularly important because of augmented reality and virtual reality), medical devices, smart patches, headphones, and hearing devices.

wearable-tech-growth

At the moment, just about every wearable tech device relies on a smartphone to act as the hub, and it will continue to do so for some time. But IDTechEx also says that “all of the largest manufacturers now look to a future, where the hub itself may become wearable”.

We’re already seeing some signs of this with devices like Samsung’s Gear S2 not relying on a smartphone to make calls and Google’s upcoming Android Wear 2.0 having more independent functionality too.

Report author James Hayward said: “Fuelled by a frenzy of hype, funding and global interest, wearable technology was catapulted to the top of the agenda for companies spanning the entire value chain and world.

“This investment manifested in hundreds of new products and extensive tailored R&D investigating relevant technology areas. However, the fickle nature of hype is beginning to show, and many companies are now progressing beyond discussing wearables to focus on the detailed and varied sub-sectors.”

So what does all that mean for the future? Well based on those sub-categories that IDTechEx lists, we still won’t be talking into our jackets or lighting up room with our jeans in the next decade. But it does seem than wearable tech will work its way into our lives in many different areas.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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data Editor's pick technology

10 billion items of connected clothing: The Internet of Things just became a lot more fashionable

Woman walking using mobile phone

Author and journalist Bruce Sterling reportedly once asked: “Why can’t I Google my shoes when I can’t find them?” Well Bruce, now you can. Not just any pair either, but your exact pair.

Some 10 billion products in the apparel, accessories and footwear market are currently being individually digitally connected, and the ability to locate items is just one of the benefits that will surface from the deal.

This “switching on” of the fashion industry is the outcome of a partnership between Avery Dennison, a global leader in branding, labeling and RFID solutions, and Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG. Over the next three years, it will see brands at both ends of the market (Avery already works with the likes of Hugo Boss, Nike and Marks & Spencer) introducing products with unique digital identities and data profiles in the cloud from the point of manufacturing.

So what does that actually mean? Head over to Forbes to get the lowdown on why this is important for the industry and what impact it will have on consumers.