Claire Duke-Woolley is fashion tech analyst at Beecham.
In our recent report, we forecast that the wearable technology market is on course to be worth some $3bn (£1.8bn) by 2018. So far, however, its development has been driven by technology, rather than the fashion industry. Wearable technology has the potential to be a huge differentiator and driver within fashion, enabling deeper brand engagement, product enhancement and new product lines - but the industry must shape the role these technologies have in our lives.
Product development led solely by technology innovation often fails to engage with the broader, non-tech savvy customer. Fashion brands, on the other hand, understand how to engage with customers and what values they buy into - as well as how to deliver on style. This is important because wearable technology is, by its very nature, user-centric; connecting us to each other and our environments. Technology and functionality alone cannot do this.
Developing truly viable and desirable wearable products is a challenging and complex process, but it can be achieved through a multidisciplinary approach to the market that considers six key criteria: target market, technology, design, functionality, security and safety, and go-to-market strategy. This approach requires partnerships to be forged between technology and fashion companies, so their combined knowledge and market understanding can drive wearable technology forward, rather than one company struggling to do it all.
The power good design practice can have on technology is neatly illustrated by Apple, which has been hiring key fashion industry figures including Angela Ahrendts, former chief executive at Burberry, Paul Deneve, former chief executive at Yves Saint Laurent, and most recently Patrick Pruniaux, former vice-president of sales at Tag Heuer. Google has been developing its market approach through collaborations with Diane Von Furstenberg and its partnership with eyewear company Luxottica.
For fashion retailers, it is important to get involved now and not wait until those key partnerships have been made elsewhere.