Beyond the smartwatch – how startups are making wearables stylish

November 11, 2014 3 minute read

Beyond the smartwatch how startups are making wearables stylish

There's been a lot of talk that 2014 is set to be the year of wearable technology. The idea that you can get info like directions, email notifications and social media updates sent directly to your outfit rather than having to spend time fumbling around in a bag for your smartphone is being hyped up as one of the big developments of this year.

Indeed, the pace is certainly picking up, with Google Glass finally arriving on UK shores last month, and the internet giant also unveiling its first Android Wear smart watches. But despite all this hype, there's a problem emerging. Namely, not everyone wants to walk around with a screen held in front of their eyes or with a heavy piece of expensive tech on their wrists.

But this is something that many companies are working to fix, so if you want to make sure you're kept right up to date with the latest goings-on from your email and social media notifications without compromising on the style of your carefully-selected outfit, there are a growing number of options that will help you look good and keep you connected.


One such firm that's getting a lot of attention right now is Ringly, which is looking to make 'connected jewellery' – and specifically, smartphone-synchronised rings – the next big thing. Founded by former Etsy and eBay executives, the firm's got a lot of tech pedigree and it's also attracted the interest of some serious investors, with over a million dollars pumped into it so far by venture capitalists eager to get a piece of the action.

Its products work by syncing up wirelessly to a user's smartphone, with the rings then vibrating and lighting up to give wearers a discreet alert when they get an email, Facebook update, Whatsapp message or more. Users can even set up different vibration and colour patterns to assign to different types of alerts.

The rings are made with 18ct gold-plating and come with three different options of semi-precious stones, including black onyx, rainbow moonstone and pink sapphire, with a silver ring set to launch next.


But Ringly is far from the only firm that's hit upon the idea of connected jewellery. CNet reports a UK-based startup, Kovert, is also looking to interest fashion-conscious buyers in it's stylish wearable notification technology.

Its solution comes in three parts – the jewellery itself, an app installed on a user's smartphone and a 'tech pack' that connects the two. This is what contains the electronics and vibrates to alert the user when they get a message. Crucially, this can be removed and set into different pieces of jewellery, so you don't have to wear the same accessory all the time and can mix and match to your outfit.

Further down the line, CNet noted collaborations with designers will see signature pieces widen the range of jewellery available, while in theory the tech pack can be connected to anything, with Kovert also looking at premium clothing and even furniture.


The brainchild of FashionTEQ, Zazzi brands itself as the future of smart jewellery with its interchangeable fashion accessories that can be worn as a ring, necklace or bracelet and doubles as a smartphone alert system.

Like other options, it can vibrate to let a user know what they get an alert on their phone, but it can also display an image to let you know you have a message. The company claims the battery in the device can last up to a week, while it's also water-resistant and users can get updates or new images for the pendant/cocktail ring/cuff bracelet via the associated Zazzi-App.

Beacon & Lively

One of the best places to find new innovations in the tech world at the moment is Kickstarter, which allows keen fans to put their money where their mouth is and offer financial support to their favourite ideas. And among the latest batch of brainwaves to attract attention is the B&L Cuff bracelet, from Beacon & Lively.

Tom's Guide reports this consists of a "sleekly curved piece of gold or silver" designed to be a stylish, yet unobtrusive wrist accessory. Hidden within the design is an LED strip that can be programmed to light up in various colours, depending on the type of notification your phone gets, or who sends it.

"For instance, using the accompanying B&L mobile app, you'll be able to assign the colour blue to your spouse, red to your mum or any other combination of colour and contact you like," the publication explained.

These are just some of the wide range of innovations that are looking to free wearable technology from the bulkiness of a normal smartwatch. So if you can't bear the thought of going for ten minutes without checking in on your phone, but want to look cool doing it, you're set to have a huge range of choice in the coming months and years.

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