Over the last year, the wearable industry has started to realize that mere function is not sufficient to capture the market – form is equally important. Fitness trackers such as the Star.21 and Misfit Shine are sleek fitness trackers that are designed for 24/7 wear while remaining aesthetically pleasing, and Ringly has recently introduced its line of gorgeous smart rings (set with semi-precious stones, no less) that notify the wearer when someone calls or texts via different vibrations and colours.
Now, a new contender has jumped into the mix. Female entrepreneur Jing Zhou has founded elemoon, a startup that aims to produce “fashionable wearable tech”, allowing the wearer to express their unique style. The startup’s first product, the eponymously-named elemoon, is a smart bangle that works similarly to Ringly in that it doubles up as an accessory and a gadget that alerts you to important calls, texts, and even the location of your phone.
“We have the vision of making elegant wearables from the very beginning. They have to be your own fashion statement even when not activated. I’m a big fan of interactive media master Scott Snibbe. He once said, ‘Nature inspires art. Nature and art inspires technology. Not the other way around.’” said Jing Zhou, founder of elemoon on the inspiration to create the smart bangle.
“elemoon is the product of lots of beautiful experience/memories that have defined me and my team. We would like to recreate and share those experiences with more people,” added Zhou.
elemoon is now crowdfunding on Kickstarter, raising almost $91k of their $100k goal with three weeks to go. The accessory, which come in silver and gold, combines a touch interface, activity sensor, notifications and customizable LED lights to give users a completely personalized gadget.
By connecting the elemoon to the elemoon app via Bluetooth LE, you can change the light designs on the elemoon based on your outfit of the day and receive custom notifications from loved ones. If you misplace your phone, rubbing the bangle sets off an audio alert which allows you to locate your device. elemoon also alerts you when you wander off too far from your phone, ensuring that those “oh-shoot-i-left-my-device-in-the-bathroom-stall” moments never occur again.
Designing wearables for women
While many wearables in the market are designed to be unisexual, the elemoon is designed with women in mind.
“Many existing wearable-tech products are in the health and fitness category, and most focus on function while ignoring form. They lack personality and sex appeal, plus they aren’t very pretty. It’s clear they weren’t designed for women,” said Zhou, in an interview with Technode.
“Beyond the fitness and health niche, there’s something broader called lifestyle. This is a trend particularly driven by female consumers who are willing to spend more money for something that truly speaks to them.”
Although the elemoon is largely designed for women, Zhou adds that there are also stylish male buyers who purchase the bangle.
“We’ve had very masculine men try on elemoon and it looks great on them!” Zhou quipped.
Fashion, form, and the wearable ‘fad’
The wearables trend is without doubt all the rage in the tech industry at the moment, although companies such as Nike has discontinued Nike Fuelband and laid off most of its hardware team.
Despite the popularity of wearables, entrepreneurs such as Misfit CEO Sonny Vu have stated that much of the current wearable tech in the market are not compelling enough, and needs to be more lifestyle and design oriented.
Zhou agrees with this view, saying that she sees the wearable trend becoming “more fashion forward and more utilitarian, meaning better algorithm and more accurate data”.
Although some critics have claimed that the wearables scene is a fad, Zhou disagrees.
“If most wearables continue to break into pieces within 3 months, it would become a fad,” she jokes.
“I think wearable tech will continue to be integrated in people’s lives and play a much, much bigger role. They will become something bigger and more impactful than smartphones.”
Zhou, who also co-founded the Chinese chapter of GirlsinTech, is also not worried about the possibility of the wearable market being saturated, despite the sudden influx of gadgets in the last two years.
“Wearable is such a wide industry. The possibilities are infinite,” she said, before adding that she thinks fitness wearables are indeed over-saturated. “I don’t understand why there’s so much group-think and few risk takers.”
Kickstarter vs. Indiegogo
Earlier in August, a Chinese tech site reported that both Kickstarter and Indiegogo were competing for elemoon’s business, with each company outdoing themselves by offering attractive benefits to elemoon should they decide to crowdfund on their platform.
According to the article, Kickstarter purportedly offered elemoon a host of benefits to crowdfund with Kickstarter, including 24-hour contact with the Kickstarter design and tech team, PR for elemoon, two ‘Staff Pick’ recommendations on the day of launch and even offering the Kickstarter New York office’s rooftop garden for a launch party.
Indiegogo, determined not to be outdone, offered to set elemoon up with a 5-man team that is dedicated to helping the startup with expertise such as PR, statistics and so on, to help elemoon promote its product and communicate with its backers. In addition, the crowdfunding platform also offered elemoon access to its backend statistics, and also offered to lop off 20% of its transaction fees, among a whole host of other benefits. Founder of Indiegogo Danae Ringelmann reportedly reached out to Zhou personally.
As we know, elemoon eventually chose to crowdfund with Kickstarter. When Technode probed about the reasons for elemoon’s choice of platform, Zhou coyly answered that both Kickstarter and Indiegogo are “two crowdfunding platforms with different characteristics”.
“elemoon is only our first product. I’m sure there will be opportunities to try both platforms in the near future and share more insights,” Zhou continued.
If you’re interested in getting yourself the elemoon, hop over to their Kickstarter campaign. The Super Early Bird pledges of US$179 for an elemoon have been snapped up but you can still get one for US$199. If the campaign is successful, the elemoon is expected to ship in February 2015.