The development of ‘connected’ earrings which record a patient’s biometric data raises the possibility of transposing the connected objects business model into the luxury goods industry.
Are the jewellery and connected objects sectors set to converge? This is a legitimate question to ask, given the variety of prototypes recently developed which take the form of accessories such as watches – e.g. Pebble and Galaxy Gear – or bracelets, the best-known being Nike+ FuelBand and Kapture. Aware of the potential of this new generation of sensors, Professor David Kotz of the Department of Computer Sciences at DartmouthCollege in New Hampshire, USA, and his team decided to focus on this trend. Under their Amulet project, they have developed an approach to connected objects for healthcare which consists of embedding the devices in jewellery.
Jewellery…for medical purposes
The Amulet project team have been working on integrating an extended system of biometric sensors into everyday objects – accessories, clothes and particularly jewellery – using a storage and analysis server which is directly linked to the wearer’s medical practitioners. Unlike smartphones, which people do not necessarily carry with them all the time, the Amulet wearable devices will be able to provide more precise information on a continuous basis. The aim is to achieve better results from a medical point of view, while at the same time standardising the connected objects used. Explains David Kotz:“The market will really expand only when the technology is hidden in a connected object that no longer resembles a piece of technology, because not everyone likes that sort of look.” Moreover, point out the Dartmouth team, although the number of medical apps available for smartphones has risen exponentially in recent months, smartphones themselves are not specifically designed for such apps and are therefore the weak link in the chain. “In contrast to connected objects that are specifically designed for medical applications, smartphones are designed to support a vast array of applications, especially e-mail and the Internet, so they’re more likely to suffer from malicious attacks,” underlines Professor Kotz.
A good market fit?
Given their technological added value, coupled with their understandably higher prices compared with non-connected equivalents, such connected jewellery would appear to be a good fit with the luxury goods market. In a similar way to how smartphones have been marketed, these upmarket connected objects could penetrate the luxury market through price-discrimination, while the cost of manufacture gradually comes down due to economies of scale, especially through the standardisation of sophisticated sensors. There’s now strong market potential for connected objects in the luxury and high quality goods sectors, as the consumer mindset is changing,” argues Uché Okonkwo-Pézard, Executive Director of Paris-based consultancy Luxe Corp,explaining: “Consumers no longer interact with technology in an isolated way; they’ve completely incorporated digital products into their lives.” However, while this type of item could well find a market among dedicated users of connected devices, when it comes to the luxury market, it might be harder to get around the ‘gadget’ tag. Uché Okonkwo-Pézard underlines that “in the luxury goods market, symbols are more important than functionality, so you always have to find the right balance.”