Ladies and fashion fans, the world of wearable tech is finally swinging your way. Smartwatches and smart glasses kicked things off, but there is a glaring issue with most of the wearables we’ve seen so far. They’re really ugly. Google Glass and its competitors may do some cool stuff, but few people want to look like a Borg reject, and smartwatches still look like boxy smartphones strapped to your wrist.
If wearable tech is really going to take off it needs some fashion sense. Maybe there’s a reason that the hottest category so far is fitness trackers. We want minimalist designs that don’t look like computers.
In honor of Valentine’s day, here’s some smart jewelry that hopes to make tech look good on you.
CSR and Cellini Bluetooth Pendant
CSR has been growing steadily over the last few years. At CES this year, it showed off a jewelry line that it had developed with boutique jewelers, Cellini. As Paul Williamson, Director of Low Power Wireless at CSR, put it, “If wearable technology is to reach its potential it needs to appeal to more than just technology lovers.”
The pendant shown here is a reference design that highlights CSR’s Bluetooth Smart solution, a tiny chip capable of connecting to your smartphone. It’s possible to use an Android app to change the color or brightness of the LED in the pendant and match your mood or clothing. The platform also supports iOS 7’s Apple Notification Center Service. By changing color, vibrating, or flashing, the pendant could alert iPhone owners about incoming calls, emails, or text messages. The chip is powered by a compact lithium-polymer battery.
These low-power, self-contained chips could be used in a wide variety of different products and CSR offers an SDK for the platform and a $100 Starter Development Kit with all the hardware you need to get started.
Netatmo June Bracelet or Brooch
We were impressed by the Netatmo June when we checked it out at CES this year. It’s a clever idea that could save you from prematurely wrinkly skin, or worse. You wear the June, which resembles a big diamond in platinum, gold or gunmetal, either on a leather wrist strap or as a brooch.
The idea is that it feeds data into an iPhone app about your exposure to the sun. You can see at-a-glance how much sun you’ve had. The elegant app gives you a UV Index and it also covers forecasts for your location so you know when to take sunscreen, shades, and a hat with you. It can also warn you to take a break from the rays when you’ve had enough.
The Netatmo June is set to go on sale in time for the summer sun and it will cost around $100.
Smartwatches are bulky and ugly, but what if you could shrink things further? How about a ring with an LED display capable of alerting you to calls, messages, and social media updates? What if it could also serve as a remote control for your smartphone, enabling you to accept or reject calls, trigger the camera, or control music? You’re interested now, right? The smarty ring can also tell the time and be used to track your smartphone, with a beeping alert when you move more than 30 meters away from it.
Is it really stylish, though? Well, it is very chunky, and we’re not sure exactly how well it works because we haven’t seen it in person. It will require a daily charge along with your smartphone, but it does support wireless charging. It smashed its Indiegogo target, but that’s no guarantee of success. If you like the look of it, you can pre-order your Smarty Ring now for $175 and there are discounts for bulk orders.
Memi Smart Bracelet
This Bluetooth smart bracelet is all about discreetly alerting you to incoming calls or messages. It has no display, but there are three distinct vibration patterns. There’s a small button on the side to turn it on or off and an LED lights up when it’s on and connected to your iPhone. You can also double tap the bracelet to silence an alert. When you open the bracelet, there’s a Micro USB port for charging, which is sealed with a rubber seal when closed to prevent water damage.
The free iPhone app that goes with it allows you to customize the people who will trigger an alert, and set up timing reminders in case you have another appointment. It’s a simple, classic silver design, with a plastic interior and rhodium-plated metal on the outside. It weighs less than 2 ounces (56.5g) and it comes in one size. You can pre-order the Memi bracelet for $150.
Here’s a simple ring with NFC functionality built in. There are two inlays, one each side of the ring with separate NFC tags in each one. The idea is that you can program them to perform various functions or hold data. The inner (private) tag could serve as a way to unlock your smartphone or even your front door, while you might use the outer (public) tag to share contact information or provide a website link. There’s a free NFC Ring Control app that you can use to program your ring. Part of the attraction is that the ring does not require any power.
We covered the NFC Ring last summer after it smashed its Kickstarter target. The price on Kickstarter was $34 for the basic ring or $40 for the larger version. They are shipping to backers, but they aren’t yet on general sale. You can sign up to register an interest at the NFC Ring website. The rings are made from titanium, with carbon fiber material inlays, and apparently half sizes are available.
There’s an RFID tag inside each Sesame Ring, which means it could potentially work with a variety of card readers. Right now it serves as a Charlie Card so you can travel on the T in Boston and across Massachusetts. Instead of tapping your card at the turnstile reader you tap the ring. No more fishing in a bag as a queue forms behind you.
You can choose the color and size you want and there are a bunch of designs and letters to choose from. You can submit your own design, as well. If the tech credentials of the Sesame Ring aren’t impressive enough, we should explain that the rings are 3D printed. The makers are also looking into injection molding and die casting, which would enable sexier designs.
It was born from another successful Kickstarter campaign and with the support of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority it is becoming a reality. The standard ring cost $20 on Kickstarter, there’s no word yet on a wider release, but you can register at The Ring Theory website to be notified when the next batch goes into production.
Looking to bridge the gap between fitness trackers and smart jewelry, we find the Shine from Misfit Wearables. At first glance, it looks like a locket, but it’s a cleverly designed activity tracker in grey, black, topaz, or champagne matte aluminum. It has a unisex look and you can select a watch strap sport band ($20), leather band ($50) to wear it on your wrist, or opt for a necklace ($50) or clasp ($5) to wear round your neck. The face of the Shine contains 12 white LEDs that light up when you double tap it to show progress towards your daily goal, they can also give you an approximate time.
It auto-detects and tracks your activity including walking, running, cycling, and swimming (it’s waterproof up to 50 meters). It also tracks your sleep, for a complete picture of your health. To sync it, place it on the screen of your smartphone. It works with an iOS or Android app, but your smartphone will need Bluetooth 4.0 LE support for you to take full advantage of the features.
The flat circular CR2032 battery inside the Shine lasts for up to four months. It will cost you $120 to buy a Shine and it comes with a sport band and a clasp.
What about big players?
It’s surely only a matter of time before some big players make a move in this space. We have heard rumors from Focus Taiwan about some smart jewelry from Acer, possibly a necklace with body temperature sensors. That Intel charging bowl reference design that the company showed off at CES would be the perfect way to charge your smart jewelry. We expect to see a lot more in this space in the months to come, especially if examples like the ones listed here take off.
Updated 2/14/2014 by Simon Hill: Changed details on NFC ring as it is made from titanium rather than steel and more sizes are available.