Wearable electronic is often associated with being not fashionable enough, looking ‘geeky’ and functional.
I have to admit some commercial products and concept designs confirm this association but there is a growing number of commercial as well as concept designs showing the fusion of technology and fashion can enrich both: the use of technology in new environments not possible without integrating it into clothing and the enrichment of fashion aesthetics with the use of electronic style elements.
To underline today’s headline, let’s have a look to the solar vest from Dominic Wanjihia who describes himself as ‘an inventor of appropriate technology, environmentally friendly gadgets applicable to the empowerment of rural people.’
Dominic’s solar vest is no fashion beauty but his motivation, his target consumers have other needs than looking fashionable. He created the solar vest for Boda Boda operators in Kenya. Boda Boda is a mode of transport to go quickly around without getting stuck in heavy traffic and is used by people of all walks of life from school children, market goers, workers, business persons.
The Boda Boda rider’s working day starts early in the morning and goes until late night. These riders often rely on their cellphone to get customers to be picked up. Using a bicycle dynamo to charge their business tool – cellphone – could be one option to keep it charged all day but add-ons on a bicycle can be easily removed from not well meaning competitors or other folks.
Integrating flexible solar panels in the vest while driving around most of the day in sunshine generates plenty of electricity to charge the Boda Boda rider’s cellphone. He even can offer a charging service to his customers while riding with him.
In parts of the world where power outlets are not the standard in most houses, where sunshine is plenty, wearable power clothing does make perfectly sense and does not have to be necessarily highly fashionable. Workwear is foremost functional and comfortable as possible to wear and only then comes the fashion aspect.
Sure – the cost of flexible solar panels are much to high to be an alternative for Boda Boda rider’s work-wear but I do hope all the promises from the solar industry to bring down cost, especially the ‘simpler’ roll-to-roll production costs used for flexible solar panels become reality very soon.