One of the most common charges leveled against wearable tech is that it has a “woman problem.” Ringly hopes it can solve that.
In an effort to make tech gadgets something women would want to wear as part of their regular wardrobe, Ringly has created smart bracelets and rings that are more jewelry than tech.
“A lot of devices are masculine and gadgety looking and people won’t wear it if it’s not stylish,” said founder Christina Mercando. Mercando’s aim is to make technology be and feel invisible and her company sells rings and bracelets made with gemstones.
The jewelry vibrates to alert wearers when they receive texts, emails and social updates on their phone, using a Bluetooth connection.
She wouldn’t say how many pieces have sold since the company launched 18 months ago, but said it was in the tens of thousand and the first 1000 sold out within 24 hours. The company began with rings but expanded into bracelets when users wanted a more feminine version of a step-counter.
Still, Statista Statistics showed the sales of smart wristbands is likely to fall by five million units in the next two years, but the sales of smart-watches, glasses and ‘others’ is expected to rise.
Emarketer’s data showed last year 39.5 million US adults, 18 and over, used wearables, including smartwatches and fitness trackers, a jump of 57.7 percent from 2014. It predicted that by next year, more women will use them than men, 34.1 percent compared with 33.9 percent respectively, but it does define wearable users as those who wear or use accessories at least once per month.
Wearable technology may be showcased on runways and hyped up when it hits the shelves, but as Wareable reports, fashion is still afraid to commit to wearable-tech, and the data also echoes that interest in wristbands is predicted to drop.
“It comes down to function,” said Andrea Bell, director of Think Tank at fashion forecasting agency, WGSN. “The purpose of products is what needs addressing. If you will use it everyday and it has a function that you need, then I think people will buy into it. But a buzz or any kind of wearable tech that sends you a notification or just a data aggregation is not helping you.”
There’s also the problem of wearable spread: There is a $500 bracelet by MICA that will keep you up on email and texts, a bracelet from Caeden that reminds you to breathe, and even one that triggers a fake phone call in case of a bad date.
For some, the problem is that wearable makers have too long focused on notifications. Wearables Experiments founder, Billie Whitehouse, said the ‘buzz-buzz’ era of wearables is over and products need to focus on moving haptics — she is soon launching connected yoga pants that will nudge wearers when their form is bad, for example.
“Moving haptics around the body is far more interesting for a wearer than just ‘buzz-buzz’ in one area of the body, which is the difference between us and other wearable tech products,” she told Glossy’s podcast, this week.
As for the future, Whitehouse said greater acceptance to wearable tech will come as people think of it like they do fashion, in the sense they can have more than one piece. “There’s an opportunity here for us not to be ‘the one ring to rule them all’.”
That point is echoed by Mercando of Ringly. “To me it’s similar to shoes. You buy so many to suit different purposes and wearables should be the same. You’re going to want to buy the piece that fits your personal style and lifestyle. It doesn’t need to be one size fits all, we don’t want to wear the same things every day.”