On March 18, Scott attended the UK Wearable Tech Conference where he sat on a panel moderated by Shoplocket’s Katherine Hague (who did a great job moderating – not an easy task!). Following are the questions that Katherine prepared for the panel accompanied by Scott’s notes. While not quite the same as attending the conference in person, it provides a nice overview of both the content covered by the panel as well as the state of Wearable Tech today and where we think it's headed.
KH: What trends do you see emerging for 2014 in wearable tech?
SNM: The integration of design and technology, where the technology becomes invisible and style moves front and center. Simple, discrete and elegant will not only be features, but requirements. We are seeing significant activity in subtle notifications.
KH: What’s your best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a hardware company?
SNM: That’s awesome! Build a prototype quickly and get it in the hands of potential customers for their feedback. Iterate quickly. Consider crowdfunding only if you’re fully prepared on manufacturing, marketing and IP fronts.
KH: What qualities would you say successful wearable products have in common?
SNM: Design, wearability, and problem solving. They have to look and feel good while offering a useful solution to a problem.
KH: How would you describe to your parents what you do? (A fun question - which sheds light on how far we’ve come from our parents’ generation).
SNM: My parents have been supportive of my hardware addiction from very early on. It may be a stretch to call them hip, but they certainly understand what we are trying to accomplish: Dragon helps hardware companies go from a functional prototype to a successful company.
KH: What’s the biggest mistake you've seen wearable tech companies make, and how can others avoid it?
SNM: The biggest and most common mistake is under estimating how hard hardware actually is. Wearables take these challenges and push hardware to the limits. I think of them as the “Olympics of Hardware” for the following reasons:
- Extremely compact “packaging” (not the box that protects and sells the unit, but the available volume for the housing, processor, battery, radio and other components).
- Low power consumption. Many devices must be worn for a week at a time between charges for a reasonable customer experience.
- Use of flexible plastics, cloth and other non-traditional tech materials.
- Waterproof to survive the rigors of life on a mammal.
- Aesthetics across a wide range of personal preferences. Often, integration with jewelry, which comes from a very different background.
- Sufficient robustness to survive day-to-day activities.
- Material compatible across all skin types and sensitivities.
As a result, wearables are often pushing at the cutting edge of technology.
KH: Many of the entrepreneurs I talk to swear by pre-orders and crowdfunding — does it ever make sense not to crowdfund a hardware product today?
SNM: Absolutely – if you have not gotten to a stage where the prototype is ready to scale or done the necessary preparations. The comparison I like to make is that crowdfunding is like a power tool: when used properly, you can accomplish much more work than doing something by hand. However, if used improperly, you can cause significant damage to yourself and your product.
KH: What new wearable company are you most excited about right now?
SNM: Pavlok, which is a habit-forming bracelet that closes the loop on behavior modification. It’s a personal Drill Sergeant. I like to think of it as a “Wearable with teeth.”
KH: We're starting to see some convergence between fashion and wearable technology - do you think there will still be a distinction in, say 10 years?
SNM: With the direction that we’re headed, I think the term “wearable tech” will become somewhat passé. Tech will be the enabler (lower cost and power, smaller packaging) but the design and function will be what makes people want to wear the product.