Posted : 2014-04-27 15:17
Updated : 2014-04-27 17:20

IT meets with fashion with electronic devices

Models hold Juun.J smartphone covers for the Galaxy Note 10.1, at the Paris menswear fashion week in January 2014. Juun.J is a Korean fashion firm affiliated with Samsung Everland. / Courtesy of Samsung Everland

By Chung Hyun-chae

The wearable electronics device market, where information technology (IT) meets fashion, is emerging as a lucrative business. The global demand for wearable devices is expected to reach 487 million units in 2018, nearly a tenfold increase from 2013, according to data compiled by ABI Research.

The Korea Information Society Development Institute said the market's value will reach $6 billion by 2016.

In line with the market growth, Samsung Electronics recently launched a range of wearable devices: smart fitness band Gear Fit and smart watches Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo.

Gear Fit has health applications and functionalities while Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are fitness companion devices.

Last year, Google introduced its wearable device Google Glass. Apple is also set to launch smart watch in the near future, while a growing number of global IT companies are eyeing the wearable device market as well.

A wearable device is an electronic device that people can wear in the form of a watch, a pair of glasses and clothes.

Wearable devices are different from existing mobile gadgets, including smartphones and tablets, which look and feel similar to one another.

Wearable devices not only have to be functional but have to be well designed as well. This is why a number of global fashion brands have entered the wearable device market, mostly in cooperation with IT firms.
Smart Suit, launched by Rogatis, a menswear brand of Samsung Everland, has a smartphone pocket with a QR code inside.
/ Courtesy of Samsung Everland

Birth of wearable device market

Jeong Jae-hoon, a senior consultant at the LG Economic Research Institute (LGERI) said as the wearable device market is still in its early stages, and consumers view the devices as complementary goods to smartphones and other widely used electronic gadgets.

"They don't expect wearable devices to have the same function as smartphones," he said, adding that wearable device manufacturing companies should concentrate on developing products with unique functions and design. "By focusing on a few essential functions, manufacturers can reduce the size and weight of a wearable device."

According to the report "Finding the future of wearable device in the fashion" released by LGERI, the wearable device market is difficult to monopolize because wearable devices can have an infinite range of forms and functions. For example, wrist devices can include a watch with a small display, a watch with a full flexile display, a band with LED lighting and a band with a sensor. It would be difficult for one company to produce all these items.

Jeong said the market will be driven by small-batch production rather than mass production, which is the norm in smartphones and other mobile devices.

According to the consultant, Google Glass, a wearable computer developed by Google, didn't fare well mainly because of its bulky design.

In addition to Google, Apple, Samsung and other well-known technology companies, a number of small- and medium-sized design start-ups are entering the wearable device market as well.
Narmer jacket, a Gore-Tex piece of clothing with IT features, was launched this year by outdoor sports brand Eider / Courtesy of Eider

Fashion brands enter wearable device market

In November 2013, global sportswear company Adidas launched miCoach Smart Run, a watch that tracks runners' location using GPS mapping, monitors their heart rate and coaches them in real time. The product has a minimalist appearance with stainless steel trim and magnesium.

"Many runners fail to get the most out of their current running watches. Building training plans, transferring workouts and personalizing display information are cumbersome with these devices. With the Smart Run, we solve these problems," said Simon Drabble, director of miCoach at Adidas. "It is fully integrated with our web platform so training plans, completed workouts and settings are synced seamlessly over WLAN."

The miCoach device four color-coded training zones: blue, green, yellow and red. Users received personalized coaching through these four zones. Coaching is delivered in various forms including vibration or a touch screen display. Users wearing a Bluetooth headset will hear the "coach" telling them to speed up or down.

France-based outdoor sports brand Eider also introduced the Narmer jacket this year, a Gore-Tex piece of clothing with IT features. The jacket has a Solar Kit, a solar charging system, on one arm, enabling wearers to recharge their electronics including smartphones and MP3 players.

"Smart wear products are emerging as a new trend in the outdoor clothing and equipment market, so Eider launched the Narmer jacket. This jacket is the most technically advanced product of its kind," said Kim Yeon-hee, a team manager at Eider.

The men's jacket come in light gray, dark yellow and black, while the women's come in light beige, light orange and yellow. These muted complement the brand's gold logo.

Local firms also introduce wearable devices

Lifeband Touch is a wristband that measures the wearer's exercise intensity and amount of calorie consumption, and the Heart Rate Monitor Earphones allow users to listen to music and measure their heart rate by checking their blood flow when they work out. LG Electronics developed both products.
/ Courtesy of LG Electronics
At the Paris menswear fashion week in January 2014, Samsung Electronics and Juun.J, a Korean fashion firm affiliated with Samsung Everland, showcased a smartphone covers for the Galaxy Note 10.1.

The collaborative product, which combines fashion with advanced technology, received accolades from the French media and the fashion industry.

Rogatis, a menswear brand of Samsung Everland, also launched the Smart Suit, which has a smartphone pocket with a QR code inside. The suit provides various types of information to the wearer, including about fashion styling.

"For modern people, IT devices have become must-have items like clothes. Our life will be more convenient by integrating technology and fashion. I expect to see a much smarter environment where IT devices manage our health such as by setting our appointments with doctors," said Oh Soo-min, a senior researcher at SamsungDesignNet, Samsung's fashion research institute.

Meanwhile, LG Electronics, Korea's second-largest electronics firm, launched Lifeband Touch, a wrist band that measures the wearer's exercise intensity and amount of calorie consumption. When the wearer moves, the wrist band turns on and allows the wearer to check the call list or play music by touching its OLED screen.

The company also created Heart Rate Monitor Earphones, which allow users to listen to music and measure their heart rate by checking the blood flow when they work out.

Future of wearable devices

Moon Cheol-whan, senior deputy director of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, said the wearable device market is a new breakthrough for both the IT and fashion industries.

"Fashion is a creation of the times. As society evolves, so do fashion trends. In that sense, it is inevitable that the textile and IT industries are integrating," Moon said.

In order to be a leader in the wearable device market, Jeong said the government should facilitate the cooperation and integration among the different industries.

"Fashion companies can provide hardware while service-related companies can provide software," he said. "The government needs to support small venture companies to create various wearable devices."

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