High-tech wearables get a precious new look

FUNCTIONAL: These necklaces and bracelets have circuitry inside to allow them to become activity monitors.


    Aug 12, 2016

    High-tech wearables get a precious new look


    BY MARRYING precious metals with high-tech wearables, a new category of fashionable technology accessories is being forged.

    A tap or a shake will make a gold-plated silver necklace or a crystal-studded bracelet with embedded circuitry double up as a pedometer.

    The smart jewellery piece also multitasks as a calorie consumption calculator, a reminder of your sedentary state (like prolonged TV-viewing) and a monitor of harmful exposure to ultraviolet rays.

    That is not all.

    Wearers can switch on the "shining mode" to make the jewellery flash continuously, which will likely make you the cynosure of all eyes.

    Totwoo, China's first "smart" jewellery maker that started mass production of such technology-driven accessories in June, has put up its items for sale online last month.

    Each piece of smart jewellery retails for 1,000 yuan (S$200) to 2,000 yuan.

    Jing Jing, a jewellery expert and editor of Harper's Bazaar jewellery in China, said: "From buying jewellery as hedging tools, they're now buying them as fashionable decorations.

    "Smart jewellery with rich aesthetic values and high-tech functions could become a brand new category."

    But there is still a long way to go. Compared with clothing, bags and cosmetics, jewellery in China suffers from a lack in branding power.

    Well-known brands account for only 25 per cent of the overall jewellery market.

    In addition, the jewellery sector does not have a strong digital footprint.

    E-commerce platforms generate less than 10 per cent of jewellery sales.

    This provides significant growth space for newcomers, according to a survey by Luxe Co, a Chinese website focused on luxury products and associated lifestyles.

    One such newcomer is, of course, Totwoo. Co-founded by Internet entrepreneur Wang Jieming and Italian designer Marco Dal Maso last year, it received nearly 10 million yuan from angel investors.

    It said it would soon launch more smart jewellery collections, with some for men.

    A few pieces will have upgraded functions, and will likely incorporate popular technologies like augmented reality.

    Augmented reality uses computer simulation to overlay virtual objects and characters on top of real-life environment.

    "It is difficult to combine jewellery and smart hardware.

    "The two are totally different, but the challenge is to retain the features of each one," said Mr Wang.

    Some consumers said they still prefer traditional jewellery with exquisite designs.

    Du Ni, a 27-year-old office worker in Beijing, said: "I might not buy smart jewellery as I'm not that into sports.

    "Those high-tech functions are unnecessary for me."

    Mei Tao, deputy director of the China Wearable Computing Innovation and Strategic Alliance, said: "The smart wearables sector is one of the hottest business areas now.

    "Companies should encourage buyers to accept smart jewellery as consumer goods first."