Where Luxury & Wearable, Connected Products Intersect


Daniela Aroche | August 06, 2015

Connected products are arriving on the market at lightning speed – but where does luxury fit in and which brands are boldly facing this new frontier?

Connected products are arriving on the market at lightning speed – but where does luxury fit in and which brands are boldly facing this new frontier?

There’s been much debate in the luxury sector lately about what actually constitutes luxury, but most notably, since the release of the inescapable Apple Watch – the discussion has evolved into another tangent.

Where wearables and connected products may once have been the domain of wealthy influencers, what Pebble, Apple Watch and others have caught on to – and capitalized on – is that the middle-class also have an appetite for these items and will spend to get their hands on them.

So where does that leave luxury when wearables and connected products are sliding into the realm of fast-moving consumer goods?

What does it take to be considered luxury in the connected space?

These brands are leading the way and upping the ante by fusing luxury with connectivity to take technology to the next level, and capture the imaginations of their lucrative consumer following.

“ Various luxury players are now snapping at Apple’s heels ”

Connected Haute Couture

Last year, Ralph Lauren unveiled its concept for a new iPhone-connected, sensor-filled Polo shirt capable of tracking and sending biometric data directly to your smartphone.

The Ralph Lauren Polo Tech shirt, created with technology from Canadian company OMsignal, featured sensors knitted into the core of the product to read biological and physiological information and marked a new era for the brand.

However, CuteCircuit – the brainchild of its owners Ryan and Francesca – is taking the wearable fashion concept one step further and has staked its claim as the world’s first fashion label creating connected haute couture.

Launched in 2004, the brand has since partnered with both Mercedes-Benz and Saab to work on special wearable projects such as the Mercedes Pilot Suit and ‘Irene’ Urban Outfit respectively, and created the world’s first Twitter dress.

Mercedes Pilot Suit

As CuteCircuit describes it: “The Mercedes Pilot Suit illuminates and reproduces animations in high definition at hyper speed frame-rate. Through a series of illuminated White Magic panels featuring 16000 bright white pixels, gently embroidered onto the fabric, the suit lights up to reflect the feelings and emotions of the pilot in realtime during his driving experience.”

Comparatively, the ‘Irene’ creation with Saab, is a two-piece urban outfit composed of a blouse and trousers. The trousers are embroidered with jewel-like silver environmental sensors, while the blouse features a luminous information display and is connected wirelessly to any device or environment in the proximity of the user. Wearing the two-piece outfit, the user can verify her schedule and other information while on the move.

“ The company was recently commissioned to design the world’s first Haute Couture Twitter Dress ”

The company was also recently commissioned by EE to mark the launch of the company’s super-fast 4G mobile network in the UK, to design the world’s first Haute Couture Twitter Dress.

The black floor-length evening dress, crafted from meters of french chiffon changeant and embellished with over 2000 triangular Hematite Swarovski Elements, was worn by Nicole Scherzinger at the launch event at Battersea Power Station in London.

CuteCircuit Magic Fabric with MicroLEDs added into the dress were used to create extraordinary animations and receive Tweets in real time from Nicole’s fans using the #tweetthedress hashtag while she walked the red carpet during the live stream.

Ringly, the maker of a line of smart jewellery for women, adds to the connected fashion movement via its high-tech ring that buzzes and lights up when you receive a phone call or text.

The ‘Launch’ collection was crafted 18K matte gold with a 3 micron plated setting and featured precious and semi-precious stones, while ‘Limited’ collection rings, are made with a rhodium plated setting and a tourmalated quartz semi-precious stone.

The ring syncs with an iOS or Android application and can be programmed to respond to incoming calls, texts, emails, or even updates from favorite apps, like Facebook.

Connected fashion accessory, Ringly

Next Level Wearable Watches

From wearable fashion to connected accessories, the Apple Watch – whether it can truly be considered luxury or not – deserves a mention.

Available in either 18k rose gold or 18k yellow gold in both the 38mm-tall and 42mm-tall sizes, and with a price tag of up to $18,000, this smartwatch has sparked tension in both the traditional tech industry as well as the luxury industry.

Of course, it comes with all the modern, connected features you would expect from Apple: Retina display with Force Touch, Heart rate sensor, accelerometer, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, microphone and speaker.. The list goes on.

“ Fashion brand Guess unveiled its smartwatch version, the Guess Connect, at CES 2015 ”

However, various luxury players are now snapping at Apple’s heels – watchmakers which come to mind are Tag Heuer – creating the Carerra Wearable 01, in partnership with Intel and Google – Mont Blanc., and most recently – LVMH.

In June, LVMH watch division president, Jean-Claude Biver, revealed that the French luxury conglomerate had plans in the pipeline to launch an Apple Watch rival, with reports indicating that the piece will be priced at just over £1,000.

Fashion brand Guess also unveiled its version – the Guess Connect smartwatch – at CES 2015, which carries the aesthetics of a regular Guess watch with the addition of a small screen which displays caller ID and other alerts, Bluetooth connectivity, and can interact with Siri or Google Voice commands via an inbuilt microphone.

Bulgari Diagono Magnesium concept

Italian luxury brand Bulgari introduced its Diagono Magnesium concept at Baselworld, a smartwatch it has described as “100% Swiss and NFC-enabled”.

In a nutshell, it’s a self-winding, mechanical watch – with the added bonus of a protected electronic passport called Luxury Wrist Vault.

According to Bulgari the feature allows users to dabble in various everyday activities with added security, including: “making payments, logging in securely to a digital community, opening doors, starting your car engine in the morning, getting exclusive access to a VIP lounge”.

Data is also locked down and protected from hackers, thanks to its partnership with WiseKey to offer maximum security and sensitive data storage.

“ The cheapest version of the Armill smart band sells for approximately $75,000, up to $149,000 ”

Designer Fitness Trackers

Brands have come a long way since the first fitness trackers were released and several companies have recently raised the bar to offer fitness trackers with a luxury twist.

First on the list is Armill, the exclusive smart jewellery accessory created by British Jewelry brand Christophe & Co, and the elite Italian design company Pininfarina.

What makes this smart band stand out is that it is crafted with supremely high quality materials – with a hefty price tag to match.

The cheapest version of the Armill smart band sells for approximately $75,000 (£49,875), followed by the mid-range edition at $93,000 (£61,845), and the top edition, which plateaus at $149,000 (£99,085).

The smart bracelet consists of an interior carbon fiber frame and an exterior of ceramics, 18K gold and the worlds most expensive gemstones.

The Armill by Christophe & Co

Putting the shine into smart jewellery – Swarovski created its Shine Collection to offer an activity tracking jewelry collection wich features a Tracking Crystal to measure the user’s daily activities and quality of sleep, and syncs wirelessly with smartphones.

Fitness tracker pioneers Fitbit have also their collections into luxury fashion arena when they joined forces with designer Tory Burch to launch an exclusive collaboration titled: The Tory Burch for Fitbit Flex Fret Double-Wrap Bracelet.

Embellished with metal detailing on its stainless steel surface based on a signature Tory Burch designs, the duo created a super-chic accessory to compete with.

“ Google captured our imaginations with the official launch of Google Glass ”

Augmented Reality Eyewear

In 2013, Google captured our imaginations with the official launch of Google Glass, a device which would bring rich text and notifications as well as other information straight to the wearer’s eyes like something out of a sci-fi film.

These days, a couple of bold businesses are producing similar offering for those who can afford to stay at the forefront of technology.

Similar to Google Glasses, Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses pairs with your Android smartphone via Bluetooth and comes with the added benefits of Android 4.0, GPS, Wi-Fi and 4GB of storage.

Volkswagen Mini has also worked with Qualcomm technology to revolutionize the display dashboard and while its still in the formative stages what this partnership proposes could change the way we drive.

“ Using streamlined augmented reality (AR) glasses relevant information will be put into the wearer’s field ”

Using streamlined augmented reality (AR) glasses relevant information will be put into the wearer’s field of vision. If (and when) it gets put into production, the product will display navigational information, your speed, points-of-interest along your route, and a visual SMS messaging alert icon with a playback option. It will also be able to help you park and even allow you to see through parts of your car.

Mini’s Augmented Vision concept

The Automated Home & Lifestyle Products

A fully “Crestron’d” home leaves little for its inhabitants to do but employ and enjoy their various appliances’ functions.

Via the company’s new home automation app, the ‘Crestron Pyng’, the Crestron systems can be controlled wirelessly and from an iPad.

Crestron developed a range of Pyng accessories commanded by the app, among them wireless lighting controls, thermostats, controllers for blinds and curtains, and dedicated Yale wireless door locks.

Events, such as lights switching on or off or dimming, when one enters or leaves a room, can be programmed – and one function graphically displayed on an iPad, even shows changes to temperature, lighting or curtain activity, for further monitoring.

Home accessories and whitegoods, such as wi-fi fridges have also evolved.

“ Recently, LG showcased HomeChat, which will allow users to virtually communicate with LG appliances ”

The LG Smart ThinQ™ French Door Refrigerator comes with a with 8"" Wi-Fi-enabled LCD screen and smartphone app helps you keep track of food, expiration dates, and provides instant access to gourmet recipes.

Recently, LG showcased its HomeChat technology, in partnership with Japanese mobile message platform Line.

Its latest invention will allow users to virtually communicate with LG appliances by sending a text message to the home appliance, which then delivers a reply according to the content of the message sent. For example – asking if you’re out of eggs, butter, wine.. the possibilities are endless.

In 2015 LG is preparing to integrate HomeChat with several other LG smart appliances, including refrigerators, washers, dryers, robotic vacuum cleaners, and ovens.

According to The Verge, Whirlpool is also working on its next-gen connected kitchen suite. The concept would allow your fridge, oven, stove, dishwasher, and washing machine to sync and communicate with one another while being controlled from a central app.

The Rémy Martin Connected Bottle

Pursuing its constant quest for innovation, Rémy Martin this year became first wines and spirits brand to bring to market a connected bottle with the most highly secure opening detection technology; integrating a unique, tamperproof NFC tag into the capsule.

The Rémy Martin Connected Bottle will be available in China this fall and will provide advanced functionalities such as secure authentication, opening detection and an integrated consumer engagement program.

The core of the solution developed by Selinko, a bank level authentication solution, uses a high-security NFC chip, combined with asymmetric encryption, which detects the opening of the bottle and remains active thereafter.

The iWallet

iWallet – featuring a strong, hard casing in in carbon fibre and aluminium shell, plus biometric access, and bluetooth technology to act as a deterrent against thieves – is another lifestyle product which could prove to be a game-changer for those who require added security.

In addition, if the iWallet or your phone are too far apart from one another (more than 10-15 ft), your phone will sound a warning alert. Prices for the moment hover around the $459 to $599 range.

“ Advances in luxury car offerings have been turning heads ever since Tesla announced its plans ”

Connected Car

Last but not least, advances in luxury car offerings have been turning heads ever since Tesla announced its plans to produce the Tesla Model S electric car.

Mercedes most recently highlighted its vision for the future with the F015 Luxury in Motion, an electric concept vehicle that drives itself while allowing passengers to stay connected to the world outside the car.

Other than the fact that the capsule-like car drives itself – the connected aspect is a key feature.

Six high-resolution touch-screen display panels on the doors allow passengers to use touch, gestures, or eye movements to navigate, browse, or see outside the car, taking the future of luxury in automobiles to a new level.

The Mercedes F015 Luxury in Motion

German automaker BMW, along with Mini, have also branched out, targeting families by integrating location-sharing application Life360 into its vehicles.

Life360 offers families the opportunity to stay connected at all times and the presence of the app within BMW cars will allow drivers to drive to a member’s location with BMW ConnectedDrive. By monitoring digital and mobile trends brands such as BMW are able to connect with consumers on a more personal level.

To further investigate wearables and connected luxury on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- In Conversation With Peter Fitzgerald, UK Sales Director, Google
- Luxury Brands, Technology & Operational Efficiency
- Luxury, Wearables & Time

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