Keep your eyes on the ball boys. Seriously, keep your eyes on the young men running along the sidelines at next week’s U.S. Open because they will be sporting a black, connected shirt that will broadcast their vitals to a smartphone or even display. According to a profile in the New York Times, the shirts are a collaboration between Ralph Lauren, courtier to the preps, and OMsignal, purveyors of wearable tech.
The current OMsignal shirts come with special conductive thread and a removable electronics pack, and cost about $200 for one. Imagine the shirt above with a giant Polo pony logo and you have a good idea of what Lauren is putting on the U.S. Open ball boys. We’ll make sure we ask Stephane Marceau, the CEO and co-founder of OMsignal, about this and other collaborations at our Roadmap design conference in November.
What’s most notable about the partnership is why it’s happening. According to a comment from David Lauren, son of the famous designer and the executive vice president for advertising, marketing and corporate communications at his father’s eponymous company:
“Everyone is exploring wearable tech watches and headbands and looking at cool sneakers,” Mr. Lauren said. “We skipped to what we thought was new, which is apparel. We live in our clothes.”
That’s akin to how others building connected clothing are also viewing the opportunity. Not as an extension of watches or clip-on fitness trackers, but as something you just put on in the morning as part of your everyday activity. Alison Lewis, the co-founder of Switch Embassy, another connected clothing company offered similar sentiments in a story my colleague Signe Brewster wrote last month:
“I think lights are just the beginning,” Lewis said. “I think everybody focused on the wrist is missing the point. Until you start thinking about fabric and fashion, (wearables) will always stay in … healthcare.”
So while Google Glass may attract Diane von Fürstenberg’s fashion house and Fitbit (see disclosure) has a deal with Tory Burch, the real opportunity for mainstream wearable adoption is in making the things we already use in our day-to-day lives smart, without adding a lot of bulk and costs. That’s going to take time, but I do believe it will happen.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.