Wearable Tech: Functional and Fashionable Technology

Created: August 21, 2017
Updated: July 27, 2021

Smart watch on wrist

Do you ever look at old pictures of your parents when they were younger and wonder, “why were they wearing those hideous clothes?” I find the giant glasses to be particularly bad. Fashion is and always has been important, even if trends change. When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable electronics, aesthetics often seem to be left by the wayside. Designers seem to let functionality determine to look and form factor, rather than developing both concurrently. If you want to sell products, you should realize that fashion is important. Here are three devices that combine form and function well.

Chic Geek

If you look at our movies and TV shows, aren’t exactly "cool." Even as old as he is now, Fonzie is still cooler than Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. When people buy electronic devices, they don’t want to look like nerds. That’s where much of wearable technology has failed.

The wearable technology market may not be growing as fast as we all predicted, but it's still increasing in presence. There are multiple reasons behind this, including the slow implementation of smart building technology like low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN). Wearable technology has grabbed only a small piece of the IoT market, primarily because it is inconvenient or uncool. I’ve already talked about convenience, and I’ve even talked about the fashion factor in regards to senior citizens. With the elderly, you might wear an ugly device if it will save your life. The rest of us, though, are not expecting our watch to save our lives. We want it to keep time, give us alerts, count our steps, and look good doing it. If it’s ugly, why waste my money? I can just buy a fashionable watch for timekeeping and continue using my phone data for everything else. Wearable technology needs to work well and look good doing it.

Man wearing huge VR goggles
This may look like fun, but these goggles wouldn't go well on a first date

Positive Examples of Wearable Technology

Brains won’t get you everything; sometimes you need looks too. Let’s review a few products that are doing it right.

  • Bellabeat Leaf - Bellabeat is doing a number of things well. Firstly, it has a great form factor and material. It can be made with natural wood, which gives it a different look from many other IoT gizmos out there. Few people want to wear something that screams “tiny supercomputer.” They want a product that’s unassuming but still does what it’s supposed to. The Leaf can get the job done in a variety of forms, such as a clip, a bracelet, and a necklace. Its functions include the traditional step counting, sleep tracking data, etc. However, it also has a more interesting function for women that lets them track their monthly cycles. Wearables need to include these other kinds of data tracking if they want to separate themselves from the field of gadgets all doing the same old things. The Leaf’s design, wood option, and it’s meditation goals make it a trendy choice for women who want technology to help them keep track of their lives without shouting it to the world.

  • Omate’s Ungaro Ring - This ring screams chic because it was designed by a French fashion label. It not only looks great, it also has a very interesting function. This ring vibrates to send you a notification, but only from a VIP list that you set on your app. One of the most annoying things about wearables is the constant notifications. I don’t want a ping every time my mom uploads and old picture of her and her friends from high school. I want something that buzzes when she's calling me. Add in a five-day battery life and this ring starts to meet my convenience requirements as well. This device is elegant in its simplicity, something I think the IoT has lost, or possibly never had found. Your products don’t have to do everything. Minimalism is currently fashionable, and it will help you save money and battery life on extra sensors.

  • Pebble Time Round - I had to review a watch because half of wearable technology examples are watches. Someone, please design some new devices. The Pebble Time Round is coming to stores near you soon and equipped to bring great functions like an activity tracker for daily living. The Time Round’s defining characteristic seems to be that it looks and feels like a watch. For smartwatches, size matters and smaller is better. Pebble’s product is small and light and gives you all the tech of a smartwatch or smart jewelry without any of the giant form factors or braggadocious flash data. Again, we don’t want a tiny supercomputer on our wrist. We want a normal watch that humbly does the same kind of work as my cell phone.

Three smartwatches
No matter the shape or size, make sure your smartwatch looks good.

These three wearable devices all have some things in common. They were all designed to look good. Each device also has minimalist elements. The Leaf is small and unassuming, the ring only does one thing, and the Time Round is small enough to look like a normal watch. Take note of these devices and their “less is more” approach. If you design your products with fashion and function both in mind, you could more effectively tap into the IoT market.

Whether your device is fashionable or not, wearable technology should be powered by an elegant board. Using some great PCB design software will help you design one. If you're a wearable tech designer, CircuitStudio® has a wide range of advanced features that will help you design the next product to put on this list.

Have more questions about fashion? Call an expert at Altium Designer.


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