However obvious as it might sound, Intel chief executive officer Brian Krzanich’s fashion-week blitz will be all about networking.
On Saturday afternoon, the Silicon Valley executive will be seeking connections at FAST A/W 15, a mélange of tech executives, fashion types, influencers and investors checking out and talking up wearables. For added oomph, the Milk Studio event, which New York Knick Carmelo Anthony’s Melo7 Tech Partners is cohosting with Made Fashion Week, Katalyst Live, Intel and Accenture, coincides with the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
As for how much of the Anthony hook-up was tied to his 6.16 million Twitter followers, Krzanich said, “Sure, it’s a factor. We’ve talked to him about some of the things he can do to activate those six million followers — everything from having his own avatar that tells him how he is feeling before a game, or using wearables to transmit his vital statistics.” He added that Anthony’s business interest in merging fashion, sports and technology, as well as his ability to attract “smart, fashion-oriented” people was the real draw.
“What happens in the fashion world, and in a lot of other worlds that aren’t used to technology, is they don’t know what’s possible. We [at Intel] know what’s possible, but we don’t know what that industry wants. We’re trying to bring these two groups together. We know what’s possible — you tell us what you want,” he said.
Although FAST A/W 15 will be the first showcase of its kind, Krzanich is becoming more comfortable with the fashion crowd, due largely to Intel’s partnerships with Opening Ceremony, Luxottica, Oakley and other marquee brands. An Intel lifer, Krzanich became ceo in 2013. As for how much of this quest is personal, Krzanich said in a phone interview, “Sure, I have an agenda here. I believe that wearables are going to be one of the growth areas of the future and this is how future generations will connect with computing, as well as tablets and PCs. It’s certainly part of the vision myself and [president] Renee [James] have tried to bring to the company.”
A 3-D printed “spider dress” that monitors the wearer’s stress levels and responds to any encroachment of personal space, a sensor-laden smart glove that guides wearers through every step of a tire change (even if they have never seen a tire) and RealSense cameras that measure depth perception and will clue sports fans into just how many feet away a ball might be are among the advancements up for discussion on Saturday. As athletes and their equipment become more engrossed in smart technology, that will become a greater part of the analysis of an event, Krzanich said. Milk Studio-goers will see an Intel RealSense experience, where passersby will manipulate a 15-foot interactive screen that senses in 3-D, depth presence and range of motion.
While Nike, Under Armour and Tory Burch are among the brands delving into fitness-tracking devices, wearables have capacities far beyond fitness and fashion. Referring to the smart-glove, Krzanich often considers industrial applications, whether one is trying to teach someone on an assembly line or how to repair something. The father of two teenage daughters, Krzanich said, “These things could transform how fast people learn, or how safe they are. So I look at it as this broad spectrum, and when I show up at fashion week, what I’m trying to do is connect with these innovators to partner with them and show them what’s possible. And I want to know what problems they want solved so that I can go back and work on those problems.”
Intel, the world’s largest chip-maker, is working with, or speaking to, 20 to 30 fashion and sports companies about wearable partnerships. Evasive about any specifics, Krzanich said, “There is not a number that is used for the potential of the business. When we look out in time, whether that’s five years or 10 years, it’s hard to say, but it’s going to be billions of devices that are connected. I’m not going to talk about people we are in talks with.” (He later allowed that executives at Michael Kors and Oakley have helped to expose him to what they’re thinking about, subsequently broadening his understanding of design.)
The world’s 6 billion-plus population will only continue to grow, and some will opt to own more than one wearable for sports or other interests, Krzanich said, “It’s going to be hundreds of millions to billions of systems. Our job is to make them something that adds to your life and not something that burdens you or slows you down.”
Noting that wearables are becoming worldwide very quickly, Krzanich said the U.S. and Western Europe are “on the leading edge,” but China and Southeast Asia are “coming on fast. We have as many talks with partners there as we do in the U.S. or Western Europe.”
While aligning herself with the fashion crowd boosted Yahoo president and ceo Marissa Mayer’s image considerably (as well as the company’s stock), Krzanich dismissed the suggestion that his fashion-week appearance could be along those lines. “I’m not a public-image kind of person. I consider myself a technologist and an engineer,” he said before giving a lengthy description of the design development of Intel’s MICA bracelet with Opening Ceremony.