Wearable tech might someday be as big as the smartphone and even replace hand held devices. Gadgets like the Apple Watch blur the line between fashion and tech and are warming the market up to wearable high grade technology. Thanks to such products, Forbes predicts that the wearables industry will see a real boom in popularity over the next five years.
However, the wearables industry has been around for a while, integrating tech into everything from clothes to accessories. In 2002 A UK company called CuteCircuit created the Hug Shirt, a wearable tech shirt embedded with sensors that recreate the sensation of touch. In 2006 the company was awarded the Best Inventions of the Year by Time Magazine. Since then there has been a spike in wearable tech with companies embedding tech into everything imaginable – admittedly, some of it useful and others were just plain weird.
Although predictions are favourable for wearable tech, just how big of an industry it will become is uncertain. Hoping that the fashion industry will benefit from embedded tech is Gold Coast startup MINUTIAE Innovations, which is in the process of bringing military-grade tech into luxury leather goods. Think of walking around with a Prada bag, but instead of a silky leopard print interior, which is so 2010, there is embedded tech that once was exclusive to the special forces.
“What we wanted to do was infiltrate the wearables market because we thought, ok well, how could we turn these bags into technology, apart from a watch, which is the wearable tech right now,” said cofounder of MINUTIAE Innovations, Teo Pazanin.
MINUTIAE is targeting the middle class market, which Pazanin refers to as HENRY’s (High Earners Not Rich Yet), a category that many of us would like to fall under. The startup wants to capitalise on the wearable market by moving away from the typical gimmicky gadgets and focusing on luxury fashion and style.
“We went, what’s the biggest other thing that most people carry with them and we thought young professionals always have a briefcase,” explained Pazanin. “So what if we could turn that into a mobile office? A watch doesn’t have enough space to fit everything we want to do with wearable tech, but what about a bag?”
Currently the startup is still working in the lab customising two products for online sale – a briefcase and a sleeve. The sleeve is a portable product that can be transferred and fitted into any other bag as a generic pouch. The sleeve offers military protection to secure the customer’s cards, money, and other valuables stored in their briefcase.
“All of your data is secure so when you’re travelling you have it in there and no one can come passed and scan your credit cards or log into your laptop or phone or personal information, or clients information,” explained Pazanin.
The briefcase has the same built-in military technology that provides security for customer’s laptops and tablets. The integrated technology is cloud based with a built in battery and connectivity. MINUTIAE envisions people on the go using the technology to work out of their briefcase rather than out of their office. The big idea was building a mobile office out of a briefcase, but not just any briefcase, one that stands against the big luxury brands in looks and style.
MINUTIAE hides this technology in the designs and aims each product towards the fashion conscious. The technology fits around the fashion, rather than the fashion moulding around the technology. Pazanin believes that this module of design gives his products an edge over other wearables who work around their technology.
The fashion industry is worth over $348 billion and the security industry is worth upwards of $13 trillion. Combining both industries together opens up a world of not only opportunity but endless pools of money. While the merging of the two markets in terms of briefcases is quite niche, other companies have already begun to tap into the industry with card sleeves and hidden rechargeable batteries. Leoht offers leather handbags with built-in battery and power panels, along with wireless charging and LED interior lights. Retailing from $350 these bags are quite affordable and stylish.
MINUTIAE are offering premium products that while charging your smart devices, also offer high grade protection. Thanks to a business partner who is head of security and information at Queensland University of Technology, MINUTIAE has access to the same materials that line military suitcases.
The Prada charging bag that has recently made a market appearance is valued at $6,000. Currently MINUTIAE’s briefcase without in-built technology is sitting at $600 and with the addition of technology will retail between $700-$900.
Pazanin and his team are still trying to perfect the briefcase and are currently in the Advance Queensland program, where they have been offered a place to work collaboratively to turn transform their ideas into investable products. The Advance Queensland program recently announced an investment of $180 million over four years to develop, attract and retain world-class scientific and entrepreneurial talent.
The startup is set to close a seed round, which will enable them to operate an online store and give them the opportunity to collaborate with boutiques around the world.
“We’ve had a lot of interest out of Europe, funny enough. We’ve currently got orders for wholesale even before manufacturing out of Europe, so we decided that the best way would be to go through boutiques. It means that we don’t have to have our own store front, but people can still have that tactile feel and play of our products because leather has to be felt, it has to be seen,” said Pazanin.
With Europe being a viable option for retail, Pazanin wants to establish MINUTIAE in Australia first. Before release the team still have a lot of lab work, prototyping and funding to get through in order to establish their products as military grade high-end luxury and not just another wearable gimmick.
Image: Minutiae Team. Source: Supplied