The two companies today announce a partnership that signifies major momentum from apparel and accessories companies toward developing wearable technology products.
Flex, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a large electronics manufacturer for global brands across industries from health care to automotive, and MAS is a Sri Lanka-based apparel technology company. The two today shared that they will formally work together to streamline the process of developing new technologies and products.
Flex vice president of consumer technology John Dwyer discussed the news at the WT Wearable Technologies Conference here today, and displayed illuminated clothing called Firefly that the companies had developed that can be integrated into clothing to be used for athletic and industrial safety.
Flex has a team dedicated specifically to developing fashion items. David Monteith, director of fashion and apparel at Flex, said a lot of the recent and future developments in wearable technology are coming from the customers.
“What surprises me,” he said, “is the amount of brands that are actually doing wearable tech experiments.”
Much of the research, he said, is focused on miniaturization, as accessories such as earrings, pendants and rings are being developed with the same capabilities that are currently worn on the wrist. These can be programmed to vibrate, buzz, make sounds or turn colors based on different circumstances, and can be connected wirelessly to a wearer’s smartphone. There’s also development around the concept of storing memories; a “digital locket,” for example, could be a pendant that stores photos or a voice recording.
Monteith said that in the fitness sector, as has previously been the trend, features such as accelerometers and data tracking are popular. He also said these functions are increasingly being incorporated into apparel, rather than accessories. For example, Flex recently created a “smart” running short with Lumo.
On the fashion side, he is seeing innovation in personalization, in addition to, charging products, such as a purse that charges a phone. Ultimately, he said, the litmus test at Flex to discern a “fashion” product is, “even if it didn’t function, would you still want to wear it?”
“Most of the things we buy are an expression of yourself and how you want to represent yourself with the world,” he said. “For everything we are looking at making, if the battery dies, would people still wear it? If the answer is yes, then it’s a fashion product.”