The Present

Description of Wearable Electronics in todays Fashion world.

The Status of Wearable Electronics
November 15, 2006

In this article, I will try to summarize the status of Wearable Electronics based on the recent activities, the many new Clothing and Bag styles that have been launched this year.

A few years ago, Burton Snowboards has released a backpack and later jackets with built-in iPod controls, allowing to direct control the iPod while it was safely stored away in the Backpack or Jacket. Those first iPod enabled Fashion products got a huge press coverage at that time although, it was almost impossible to actually order them or find a Bag of Jacket in stores.

After the attempt from Burton, the Wearable Electronic business was slowing down again considerable. Between 2003-2005 has not seen much of activities in Wearable Electronics besides a few handbags and backpacks with iPod pockets integrated. A second ‘wave’ of companies joined the Wearable Electronic business, or should we say started to explore, like O’Neill and Rosner with limited range of product offerings and again difficult to buy those Jackets and Backpacks.

Many of the Wearable Electronics enthusiasts like myself where questioning: “What is the missing link to make Wearable Electronic more accessible to consumers and to build up a business?”

As I highlighted in many discussions and presentations, the key for success of Wearable Electronic is that electronic products or a complete range of different electronic products have to have a unified and standardized connection port (nowadays called ‘dock connector’).

If a standard connection port would exist across different types of products like Audio Players, Mobile Phones, 2-Way Radios (to name a few), and across different brands, the design and development of Wearable Electronic apparel would be easier to handle.

In such a standardized scenario, there is no need to have next to the different size and style versions of clothing, additional versions for each and every different electronic product and across the different brands of those electronic products.

This situation did not improve much since then. There is no standardization across products like Audio Player and between the different brands in the Electronic Industry. Everyone has their own propriety connector and if the connector is physically the same, it will be different in how it is wired to the product.

To make things even worse, products from brand A are not always compatible even within their own product range.

This seems to change now with the emergence of the iPod who dominates the market of Portable Audio player. As of the time of this writing, the iPod has a market share of around 80-90% in this market segment in the US. The market share in Europe and Asia is a bit less but still dominant in both regions. Around 70 million units of the different iPod models where sold over the past 5 years. It’s almost a de-facto standard by now around the world.

Countless accessories have emerged over those 5 years for the iPod, made possible because there is only one connection port type to design. That allows to create a very diverse product range with a single version of interconnection port.

It seems the iPod has created the right environment for Wearable Electronics to re-emerge and reach high consumer awareness due to the large iPod owning community. This ‘iPod standard’ enables the apparel companies to build and re-use the same electronic functionality in their large range of clothing.

Based on this condition, the iPod-enabled clothing and bag market has been very active over the past 9 month. A number of big and small apparel companies created clothes and bags with iPod controls and storage as an integral part of the products’ designs.

The fact that the iPod has such a huge consumer base, the likeliness is very high that a customer, looking for apparel or bags, owns an iPod and is therefore interested into products that integrate his/her iPod into the daily lifestyle.

My conclusion at this moment is: the iPod has ignited the Wearable Electronic business again and has the power to elevate Wearable Electronics even further to the point where the consumer will take it as granted to have the choice between conventional fashion and Techno Fashion styles.

To be continued ….