Nov 222014
 

The Metamorphosis line from Younghui Kim is a clothing line that detects alcohol levels in its wearers. A female dress responds to the wearer’s level of alcohol consumption through the use of colorful lights and expanding sleeves, while a male’s blazer responds by an expanding collar that slides out to cover the wearer’s face.

The project is meant to express the impact alcohol has on a person’s self-esteem, and was specifically focused on the role of drinking in Korean society. The interesting point of the project is the grounds for its creation. When first exposed to an article on Bustle, the title “A Dress that Detects when You’re Drunk? Younghuo Kim’s Wearable Tech will Draw Attention to the Fact that you’re Sloshed” I was left with the initial impression that the project was intended to act as a deterrent to over indulgence. After further reading, I have come to the realization that it is not technology meant to support sobriety, but rather as commentary on the way in which drinkers interact, and are perceived in social situations.

Apparently, social drinking in Korea is viewed as an outlet for honesty, and Kim’s website absurdee.com notes that “with formality deeply set in society, people are often shy to express what they really think soberly” (Kim, 2014). I find this interesting because it raises the question as to how a person should interpret the opinion of another. It almost seems that Kim is suggesting that the views of a person who has been drinking should carry more weight than those of someone who has not. While it is often said in vino veritas, people in western society are often heard explaining their actions by blaming alcohol. I have heard “I had been drinking” when responding to questions about a late-night conversation from the night before. It is not to say that there is not truth in wine, but it is interesting to note the social differences surrounding the conversation of honesty and alcohol. Would a project such as Kim’s have any impact on the perception of a person’s words, or even more importantly, should it?

It seems that in fashion, it is not uncommon to see someone wearing a particular item because of the statement it is making. One could wonder what the statement an item from the Metamorphosis project is making. In western culture, would it be viewed as an excuse? In Korea, would it be seen as a reason to pay extra attention to the wearer’s words and actions, because they are in fact being honest? It is also interesting to note that the female’s version of this project draws attention to the wearer, but the male’s blazer is designed to hide the wearer’s face. It is almost as if Kim is saying that when drinking a female is empowered, yet when a man drinks the best course of action is to keep his mouth shut and hide from the public. While this may not be the actual intent of the project, it is reminiscent of the points made by Joanne Entwistle in “Fashion and Gender.” Entwistle notes that in fashion “clothing does more than simply draw attention to the body and emphasize bodily signs of difference. It works to imbue the body with significance, adding layers of cultural meanings” (Entwistle, 2000). In the case of the Metamorphosis project, this seems to be taken to an entirely new level. It is not just the appearance of the articles of clothing, but it is the way in which these articles interact with the wearer. Would a woman who identifies as male require the same response from the item, or would she be exempted from “hiding” because she is a woman? Would a man who identifies as female be empowered by the influence of alcohol on his self-esteem?

One cannot argue that the project is interesting, but does seem to be ambiguous as to its intent. At first glance Kim seems to be making a statement in regards to the relationship between social interaction and alcohol consumption, but after a closer look there seems to be a not so subtle commentary on gender roles in social situations. The social implications of the project could be immense, but it also seems likely that the message from the item could easily be unclear. The technology seems far more likely to be relevant if gender is taken out of the equation, and the same response is generated no matter the sex of the wearer. Metamorphosis should simply provide the visual signal, and leave the interpretation of the situation up to the observer.

References

Entwistle, J. (2000). Fashion and Gender. In The fashioned body: Fashion, dress, and modern social theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.

abdurdee.com

Nov 162014
 

With the popularity of wearable fitness devices, it has become common to see everyday consumers using devices to monitor their health and activity. Devices such as the fitbit flex  track activity such as steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep. These measurements have become fairly common today, but in comparison to the availability of fitness tracking technology twenty years ago, the growth in the industry is noticeable. Now the advancements in wearable technology are on the cusp of providing data tracking for vital signs that were previously only available in a hospital setting.

A new device called Muse uses sensors worn on the head to measure brain signals using Electroencephalography (EEG) science. The device is marketed as a tool that a user can use to train their brain in an effort to reduce stress, improve focus, and increase concentration.

According to the website, “Muse detects your brain signals during a focused attention exercise the same way a heart rate monitor detects your heart rate during physical exercise.” The device has 7 sensors to detect and measure brain activity, and then processes and exports this data into graphs and charts on the users mobile device. The data is then used to allow the user to train their brain using “focused attention training,” in a way that the company relates to being the “mental equivalent of a treadmill.”

Focused attention training is explained as an exercise that monitors how a user responds to distractions, and audible feedback. The examples below are diagrams of how a person’s mind tends to wander, and how using Muse could improve mental focus:

brainTraining_attn_loop_A-1brainTraining_attn_loop_B-1

Images  via ChooseMuse.com

The user wears the device during “exercise” and the device translates brain signals into the sounds of wind. When the user’s mind is calm and settled, they hear a calm and settled breeze, but when the user’s brain is active (distracted) the winds will pick up and blow. When a user is able to maintain a level of calm for an extended period of time, bird sounds will be introduced to announce that the mind is calm. The bird sounds will add an additional opportunity to monitor their progress because it requires the user to react to the additional stimulation, and respond in a manner that does not give in to additional distractions. This will hopefully allow the user to develop control over their mind, which they can then apply to distractions when not wearing the device.

Muse is based on research that has shown that focused attention training has been shown to reduce pain, reduce anxiety, improve mood, and reduce heart rate. Prolonged sessions have been documented to suggest other benefits, such as increased grey matter density, reduced thinning of the prefrontal cortex, decreasing amygdala activity (associated with stress response), and increased resilience and immune function – which basically suggests an overall positive change of the brain’s structure and function. The health implications of devices such as Muse have been largely discussed, and in “Vital Signs,” Bradley Quinn notes the potential for sensoring technology within healthcare, and provides a variety of examples that show the positive impact of wearable technology that is already available. Quinn points out the possibility of wearable technology detecting, and stopping, an episode in patients susceptible to strokes, or liable to have seizures, and it would seem that technology such as Muse could be adapted to perform similar tasks. While Muse is not an approved form of treatment for neurological disorders, it does suggest that there is a developing market for wearable technology within the realm of personal health. Devices such as Muse could lead to wearable technology that could increase the quality of life for many individuals who live with a variety of medical conditions.

SOURCES:

http://www.choosemuse.com

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Sep 302014
 

What is often passed off as a negligible and readily available asset could be something that another person was eagerly waiting for. As students, reading forms a crucial part of our academics. However, for a person who is visually impaired, the path to obtain a formal education is wrought with difficulties like dependency on persons with normal vision or awaiting the availability of Braille versions of books. The World Health Organization estimates the population of visually impaired people as around 285 million. Yet, it is saddening to see that our technological advancements have not really been able to help them much. Until now.

Finger Reader Prototype

Finger Reader Prototype (http://indiaartndesign.com/IAnD_images/content2014/July/Fingerreader/FingerReader_IndiaArtnDesign(5).jpg MIT Fluid Interfaces Group )

The Fluid Interfaces group of Massachussets Institute of Technology(MIT)’s Media Lab has been working on a character reader that can fit on a person’s finger and can read text (off a surface) out loud as well as give signals to them. Termed “FingerReader”, the promise of this technology in aiding the visually impaired is in itself a noble cause. However, as scholars of wearable technologies, we need to look at the pros and cons of their design and what could be done to improve upon it.

fingerReader-that-reads-aloud-when-you-point-at-words-3

FingerReader (http://www.technicupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/fingerReader-that-reads-aloud-when-you-point-at-words-3.jpg and MIT Fluid Interfaces Group)

 

Looking at the device, the immediate opinion that springs up is on the aesthetics. The ring seems overly bulky and we can see that there is a chip on one side and a wire that connects to a computer on the other. Having seen the extent of minimizing size whilst improving on the presentability of products, we can immediately say this is still in its development stage. However, when looking at the functional aspect of it, we find that there is much more than meets the eye. The technology seems to rely on a camera fitted on the device that sends in visual input to the system as the finger moves along the surface. Software then identifies spaces and characters and attempts to pronounce the same based on phonetic rules that have been pre-programmed. Although I am not sure about the voice, I think it is safe to assume that it is coming from the system’s built-in speakers and have a robotic echoing effect that would need to be worked upon. The speed of processing is not at the levels we are used to experiencing with the technologies we utilize everyday but, considering the amount of processing that needs to be done with each movement, the speed is appreciable. The Fluid Interfaces Group has put up a demo on their website which I have embedded below.

In the video, we can see that, although slow, the system is able to recognize and pronounce words accurately. The sensors and signals sent to show the ends and starts of lines are a thoughtful addition. The wearer doesn’t seem to feel the weight of the reader much and this is a sign that with future iterations, the size can definitely be scaled down even more. The group promises bluetooth enabling as well as mobile pairing options. It looks to be seen how much longer it will take to get all these implemented with the basic functional prototype. The group seems quite confident in their ability to sell and we can hope their pricing will be kept in a range that is affordable by a section of people who might not be economically well off.

For more details and to get involved with the project, do visit their website : http://fluid.media.mit.edu/projects/fingerreader

 

References : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/fingerreader-read-blind-mit_n_5565898.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

http://fluid.media.mit.edu/projects/fingerreader

Sep 152014
 

By Amanda Sparling

Photo by idigitaltimes.com

Festivals. Music Festivals. Art Festivals. Movie Festivals. Technology Festivals. People of all ages and socioeconomic statuses find themselves flocking to festivals across the world which cater to their particular variety of fun. Each festival offers a unique experience defined by a diverse and highly passionate cult-like following. The atmosphere is full of energy, as ranges of people descend upon a single area to come together and celebrate a passion for a fixed period of time. In theory, it sounds electrifying. People from all over the world coming together to rally around a common interest and cause – but with so many individuals converging into a single area security and communication become a very real concern for both the administrators and attendees of the event.

However, in this day and age, a new trend in the festival experience has emerged – Smartbracelets. A wearable, functional bracelet that allows attendees and event coordinators to access the festival and seamlessly communicate in both emergency and social environments. Bracelets are sent to registrants in lieu of traditional tickets and can be read at access points to allow entry into VIP areas, Campgrounds, speciality programs, etc… without the bother of physical passes that can be easily lost of damaged. Bracelets also increasingly serve as a method of payment, as festival goers load cash onto their individual festival “account” and can purchase and participate within the event without having to worry about carrying physical currencies.

An upcoming festival in Belgium, Tomorrowland, is taking festival technology to an extreme – pushing past the merely functional needs of attendees and integrating social elements of the event environment into the bracelet itself. The bracelet, like many others will still serve as an electronic ticket granting entry into the festival. However, once inside the festival it becomes a part of the social experience itself. Users are able to link their facebook account and contact information with their festival account, and when you’ve made a new acquaintance at the event – you simply put the bracelets side by side, select the “heart” icon, and your information is transferred to the other attendee. This allows people to connect past the moment, and potentially arrange meet-ups throughout other days and times at the event – or to build long term friendships without the hassle of a more traditional information exchange. The bracelets pass information using RFID technology and can transmit the data to/from the nearest bracelet.

Additionally, brands have begun getting into the wearable technology trends – giving out bracelets that are branded and track activity to reward certain behaviors. At the 2014 SXSW festival, wearable wristbands measured realtime audience interaction and rewarded people who were dancing at a Pepsi sponsored event. They used realtime information from the lightwave technology to adjust sound levels, lighting and temperature on the fly to manipulate the user’s real-time experience. Another brand quickly getting into the smart bracelet trend is Spotify, which enabled attendees at Tomorrowland to record a soundbite of their favorite songs – and automatically import them into their Spotify playlists to bookmark for future listening or share with friends. As mentioned in Critical Thinking’s Manifesto, Theses on Making in the Digital Age, the makers of this wearable technology are allowing a very futuristic vision of interaction to come to life. Those employing this technology are ‘bending reality’ to the use of which ‘they will’ to be true.

The options for wearable technology converging with live events seem to be endless, but it also begs many a question around privacy and the dangers of real-time bulk data collection. With so many various brands plugging into an API that is quite literally feeding your every action to event coordinators, sponsors and 3rd parties the potential for abuse becomes much more realistic and threatening.

May 092014
 
Historic Chalk Board and teaching stick

Historic Chalk Board and teaching stick

What could wearable technology do for teachers? As a former six year middle/ high school teacher and coach I can recall times where I was put in a place of fear from false and frivolous accusations from a student with nothing but my character and integrity to defend me. Through the struggle of vindication I thought that teachers should have a high tech defense mechanism to prevent malicious future events. A taboo issue that pops ups sporadically in nightly news, yet always shocking, are the inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. Not only would a wearable possibly diffuse situations of ‘my word against yours,’ but it would serve as an accountability resource when unknown offenders implant themselves within a school environment. I could only imagine the innocence that could be spared on account of social facilitation being monitored by a wearable.

In my own experience as a teacher, innovative technology was an expertise of mine. I would dream up something between google glass and Robocop. Not only for security and accountability, but I would think of review clips, resources for absent students, and even next year planning sessions all filed in video format. With products like Epiphany Eyewear and Memoto, technology is closer today rather than when I was watching

"Back in my day..."

“Back in my day…”

the Jetson’s in the 80s. However close we may be in the wearable world we still lack the progressive progress within the realm of privacy implications and policy. What could wearable technology do to the education system if all participants felt watched all the time? Would a Panoptic situation ensue? Who would have authority over the data? Would it really be a solution at the cost of the negatives in feeling watched all the time?

Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and Hartford, as well as Fort Worth, Tex.; Chesapeake, Va.; and Modesto, Calif.  would be a great point of reference to Daniel Gomezstart. They have begun issuing wearable video cameras as a part of the standard uniform for police. These serve the same purposes that I found lacking resources in my teaching career. Each department have set up policies for when the camera should be activated and who has access to the video. Overall, wearable technology has a huge contributions for individuals who work with the general population, especially teachers who sometimes are in the trenches against students, parents, and even administrators. Had I been wearing a form of wearable technology I could have been spared the embarrassment of all of my students writing a written statement of me breaking up a racially charged fight ‘rugby style’ with the ‘two boys under each arm’ escorting them to the office.  In my wearable dreams I would have turned to the distraction, activated the video and said “smile your on camera.”

 

Sources

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/business/wearable-video-cameras-for-police-officers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.komonews.com/news/national/Questions-that-arise-when-placing-cameras-on-cops-250461101.html

 

 

May 082014
 
Stop Telling Women to Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

Stop Telling Women to Smile is the public art project addressing gender based street harassment by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

 

When saying, “I’m not interested,” is no longer a clear enough signal to leave someone alone. 

In our modern society, it is increasingly difficult for many people to communicate in a direct manner without experiencing apprehension or anxiety. These people may not feel comfortable with social interaction, which may cause them issues with being direct or upfront towards others.  This awkwardness can sometimes lead to uncomfortablethreatening,  or even violent situations. For many people, technology can function as a “screen” that allows them to opt out of real-life, face-to-face interactions. When communicating online, users can set statuses on instant messaging systems (“Do Not Disturb”, “Available”, “Away”) to indicate their availability or willingness to chat.  But what happens to them when they do not have a screen to hide behind and they need help communicating their status to others? If there was an easy passive way for people to clearly communicate their receptiveness to outside interaction, it could potentially prevent miscommunication, confrontational situations, and unwanted advances.  Enter the Instant Status Band. Continue reading »

Mar 132014
 

One of my greatest desire is to combine my love of fashion and eco consciousness to help provide awareness and even solutions to maintain our planet. One of my obstacles, I have experienced and witnessed are the price tags on some of the wonderful “green” products that are in the market, today.

What I have observed in fashion is that due to use of the technology included to provide such an eco-friendly product, it has an effect on its cost. Many would spend $150.00 and up on a certain brand of Jeans or purse, but for me, in this particular season of my life,  that would be impractical.  I mean I am on the level to where my purchasing decisions have to do with purchasing between a package of paper plates from a dollar store or the cheapest biodegradable paper plates I have found, which are $2.50 by the way.

Because I know a little about  of what it entails to manufacture a RTW garment, I do have some reservations when it comes to purchasing some fashion items. I know that for a while “Green” has been the new Black in the fashion world.  With the immersion of fashion tech, I can see how eco-friendly may even become more for the chic.  I hope not.I anticipate to see green living accessible to anyone who  choses to live this particular lifestyle one day. So I try to live on my own convictions by reusing, recycling, and repurposing. I sometimes find myself buying sale and clearance items that aren’t previously used as well.  So enough of my soap box.

Here are some amazing and innovative products that are fashionably high tech green, that given the opportunity, I might even have to purchase a few to add to my “vintage” closet.

DVF solar purse

DVF solar purse

The lovely Diane Von Furstenberg and some her designer friends such  as Tommy Hilfiger join forces to create  purses with integrated solar powered panels for The Portable Light Project provide by Elle.  Her design generates clean renewable energy through a small solar panel on the side of the purse. The energy is stored in a small battery used to power a USB port for mobile devices and a light as well.

CO2 Dress

CO2 Dress

 

A dress by Diffus that can read high levels of CO2. The dress has LED sewn onto the fabric that creates flickering patterns when CO2 levels are high and low.

ph dress

Rain Palette Dress

 

 

Dahea Sun’s Rain Palette dress changes color to show ph levels in the rain. This helps indicate air quality. The dye on the dress is natural which reacts to the ph levels of rainwater.

raincatch

raincatch

 

Two students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design created a raincoat that will also give you water to drink. Raincatch captures rainwater then through a series of chemical filters and charcoal the rainwater is converted into drinkable water.

 

Flutter dress

Flutter dress

 

 

The Flutter Dress created to help the hearing impaired.  The dress was Created by Halley Profita, Nicholas Farrow, and Professor Nikolaus Correll at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It gives  vibrations  in the direction of a loud sound within its external environment to help those with hearing loss.

 

I am not a Virgin

I am not a Virgin

Sexy jeans made from Beer bottles by I am Not a Virgin Founded by Peter Heron. At the moment their prototype consists of 25 percent bottle fiber and 75 percent cotton. They have used scraps from garment manufacturer companies to make their jeans and now have added the synthetic component of beer bottles.  The idea was inspired by the transformation bamboo into thread. The bottles are crushed into fine particulate, melted and then extruded into fiber. The company also has a line of T-shirts made from food trays, water bottles and other materials that are hard to breakdown in the environment. The company is still in its development. They are projecting to be on the market soon.

For many other innovations in Green tech fashionable garments click here.

CC:

  • DVF solar purse:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • CO2 Dress:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Rain Palette Dress:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Raincatch:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Flutter Dress:http://www.crunchwear.com/flutter-dress-brings-high-fashion-to-the-hearing-impaired/#jp-carousel-3085
  • I am not a virgin Jeans:http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/jeans-made-beer-bottles.html

 

 

 

Mar 112014
 
Kanye

Kanye West

One of the exciting aims I can think of for this rising of  fusion of technology and fashion is the social solutions it can provide to world. Recently one of hip-hop’s fashion Icons, Kanye West became a topic of many conversations due to his wearing of masks during his Yeezus tour.  The masks were designed by Maison Martin Margiela. The masks made their way to the couture runway in the fall of 2013. I was attracted to the idea of wearing a mask as a form of expression through apparel after the current topic. Throughout history, I believe the “Bourgeoisie” has played with this idea of concealed identity especially within in a taboo setting, so therefore I can understand how this form of expression can make it to the world of couture. The wearing of masks can be interpreted in so many ways, but what if the reason for wearing masks became more of a necessity rather than an expression?

masks

masks

In China, the air pollution has become so horrific that “when air is so bad, people who don’t wear masks are like ET”, as expressed in the South China Morning Post. In Fashion-forward face masks a big hit in China amid soaring air pollution, Wu  Nan expressed the uprising of face masks as an effect to  protect China’s citizens from the air pollution. What was interesting to me  is that the article was posted under the Health section in the SCMP. The use of face masks have become so common that there has been a fashion dynamic added to this necessity. As with anything, the fashion market has found its way to establish its presence amongst consumers.

Totobobo

Totobobo

Respero

Respro

It would just be natural that enthusiastic fashion technologists would embark on this challenge.  In My Health Beijing, an article was written in comparing two air pollution face masks. . In Respro Vs. Totobobo: Which Mask Works Better For Air Pollution?  Dr. Richard  described details about Respro masks.  It contains filters for any urban pollution. The mask like others in the market helps to clean air while you breathe. Aesthetically, like its challengers,  it has an industrial but a slight sleekness to its appearance.

Airwaves

Airwaves

 

In more recent articles, such as AirWaves :Face Mask Filters Pollution, Crowdsources  Air-Quality Data in  ecouterre , a prototype of a new air pollution mask is featured. Author, Bridgette Meinhold, mentioned that the company Frog Design which one of its focuses is on the future of wearable technology, has created a mask that will help improve data monitoring. The Airwaves is a smart device that will monitor air quality in real time and then share its data to everyone who would have its mobile app. This would serve as a security to people from harmful environments while data collecting for the country. The appearance of the device is a bit more conspicuous on the technological aspect but it comes with the added equipment. I think this maybe one of the areas   Frog Design  may try to change within their product design given that the other masks on the market are not as bulky but with the added resource consumers might be a little more forgiving.

3m_mask

3M mask

The exciting part of this innovative piece of garment is that its original development was made for the intent to help people breathe in China.  It then progressed to a more technical advance device with added filters. What is a  little alarming is how it is becoming another “smart” device. It makes me wonder who is so data driven and how much will this device cost. In this scenario, a social problem was presented, to where its effects were dangerous to all partakers of society.  As a result of this problem a common wearable product, such as a face mask was in use and then turned to a fashion garment. As a natural effect in consumerism, the switch to a variety of choices of masks was not unusual in today’s market. The need to produce filters is also, I believe a logical step forward, but with the added equipment the cost of the product has increased. So now, I see a division of accessibility. For the general population there is a mask provided and for the ones with a little more disposable income there is also a product for them to use. Now with the use of smartphones, another product has been designed to suit consumers with the possession of smart devices which may have a different income than that of  the first face masks’ consumers. The price of a generic face mask provided by 3M is $12.71 Box/20 to compare to a filtered mask such as the Respro  for $59.95 plus the cost of filters $29.95 for two and that is just for a certain kind of air pollution. You would have to buy more for each environment.

Given the knowledge of China’s economic structure , it would appear that the filtered masks will not be used by everyone, but doesn’t everyone have the right to breathe the same quality of air? Now with this new smart device in progress, it brings about another question, doesn’t everyone have the right to know where the hazardous air pollution is located in their own country? I mean what if a person cannot afford a smart phone, how would that individual be informed? Maybe my thinking is a bit extreme because of with the prices of smartphones today, everyone should have one…right? But we are talking about China not America, a totally different economic situation…right? Who really gets to enjoy this new innovative fusion of fashion and technology?

CC:

  • Kanye West:http://www.thisis50.com/profiles/blogs/all-the-masks-kanye-wore-yeezus-kick-off
  • Masks:http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/article/1254691/fashion-forward-face-masks-big-hit-china-amid-soaring-air-pollution
  • Respero:http://www.myhealthbeijing.com/china-public-health/respro-vs-totobobo-which-mask-works-better-for-air-pollution/
  • Totobobo:http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/04/whered-you-get-that-mask/totobobo/
  • Airwaves:http://www.ecouterre.com/airwaves-face-mask-filters-pollution-crowdsources-air-quality-data/
  • 3M mask:http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/04/whered-you-get-that-mask/3m_mask/

 

 

 

Mar 022014
 

When we think of wearable technology, we often imagine designs straight out of science fiction and unique futuristic materials. There are high-tech eyeglasses that take pictures, ultra biometric watches that track your sleep habits, and even vibrating shoe shoes that help you navigate the streets. In recent years, much of our everyday gear received high-tech upgrades but not much attention has been paid to the wallet.

Here is the object that houses nearly all of the valuables that a person carries on a daily basis: identification cards, credit and debit cards, and cash. With the massive security breaches at retailers Target and Neiman Marcus during the 2013 winter holiday season, it is abundantly clear that the magnetic stripes on credit cards are vulnerable to attack.

via Simon Vinal @ Corbis

Dunhill’s high-tech carbon fiber wallet uses biometric scanner technology to secure its contents.

Chip-based credit and debit cards are a safer alternative to magnetic stripe cards because they are difficult for thieves to reproduce. There are two types: EMV and RFID. EMV smart-card technology (also known as “chip and pin”) is widely used internationally but the US has been very slow to adopt this technology, as it requires retailers to update their outdated equipment and financial institutions to rollout new cards. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card technology is the alternative but it comes with its own set of security-related challenges: anyone with a portable RFID reader can “read” the card data from a short distance.

For those unwilling to forgo credit and debit convenience, what technology is available to help protect our valuable card data? Some quick searching yielded the Omega titanium wallet and the biometric scanner wallet from Dunhill but both of these options (while futuristic and high-tech) are too clunky for daily wear (which defeats the basic function of a wallet) unless carried separately in a bag (impractical for some). Both draw unnecessary and perhaps unwanted attention to the wallet, which could make it a target for physical theft (which nullifies the purported security benefits).

 

via Articulate Wallet's Indiegogo page

Articulate Wallet’s special RFID blocking lining ensures that all your personal information, including the card in the back pocket, are protected from RFID identity theft.

Articulate Wallets (@A_Wallets) recently redesigned their eponymous wallet, keeping the RFID blocking technology but updating the design to suit the demands of modern life. Judging from the success of their Indiegogo project ($40,852 raised for $500 goal), there is a huge demand for wearable technology that offers consumer data protection with a less obtrusive  “traditional” design. There is some irony that in the rush to put out the latest and greatest wearable technology, aesthetic wearability is sometimes forgotten.

So maybe there is hope on the horizon for those of us that want our wearables to look bit less Alienator … and thankfully, other forward-looking companies like LaForge Optical are also starting to take note.

Feb 262014
 

Tech in Motion hosted a fashion show for wearable tech this past week. There were ten companies that presented clothing and accessories as a part of the company’s Social Media Week. Included in the show were a knitted brains sensor that would lights up in different colors depending on your brain activity, an umbrella which lights up with a variety of colors and also in the accessories category geometric 3D printed nails by the New York City based group TheLaserGirls.  The show also included 3D-printed shoes and nail art, as well as coffee-infused fabrics that can absorb odors to keep you smelling fresh. The idea behind the show was that wearable tech is now available for the average consumer.  I count myself as an average consumer and at this point none of the fashions they showed wowed me to the point of wanting to buy, but I’m excited to see what else is out there.

nails umbrella sensor