Smart jewellery is having a moment. We've just seen huge investments for smart ring Ringly and the digital detoxing Altruis is about to land on luxury fashion e-tailer Net-a-Porter too. But Claude Aldridge, co-founder of Trellie, thinks specific, standalone pieces of smart jewellery such as Ringly are missing a trick.
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"It is very simple," he told Wareable. "Our audience told us they are not interested in wearing the same piece of jewellery everyday outside of their wedding ring.
The modularity [of Trellie] really allows our customer to wear this in a variety of ways to match her style, mood and environment."
So what is Trellie? The smart module, which Aldridge referred to as a "nugget", is 15mm high by 10mm wide and "getting smaller". It contains a Bluetooth LE chipset, a battery, a vibration motor and LEDs as the first version of Trellie is notification based - it connects up to your smartphone and can alert you by gentle buzzing or lighting up. Battery life is estimated at one to two days, depending on usage.
Aldridge also pointed out that Trellie has the flexibility to add new sensors to its platform at any point - the components dictate the overall size. The company, started in 2012, also holds patents around how wearables contextualise incoming alerts - its software is of course proprietary but the system is compatible with both iOS and Android.
Unlike Altruis, Trellie isn't just modular in the sense that it can be popped out and worn in a ring, bracelet or necklace by the same designer. Aldridge and his co-founder Jason Reid now have a deal with a jewellery manufacturer Glitterings which makes jewellery for famous brands and stores such as Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Henri Bendel, Nordstrom and Macy's.
That doesn't mean we'll see a Trellie-powered Marc Jacobs line of jewellery necessarily but it appears that the fashion industry is on the lookout for tech partners offering exactly what Aldridge is offering.
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"We believe the clearest path to the female mass market is to power established brands with our technology enabling them to launch their own wearable technology," he said. "They have the brand, they know their consumer and they have established channels to get wearable tech in the consumers' hands.
"We expect to announce more design partnerships in the first half of the year," he added.
We asked Aldridge if its ideal customer is constantly connected women or those looking for a digital detox, as with Altruis. "Both," he answered.
"Our target market places a high emphasis on staying connected to those people and events that are important to her BUT has an overwhelming desire to untether from her phone. Our smart jewellery allows her to put her phone away and focus on being present with her kids, in the boardroom or at dinner but have the peace of mind that she won't miss the important stuff."
With no semi precious stones in sight, it's an affordable device. In the next few months, you'll be able to buy a Trellie starter kit for $99-$129 in US stores - that includes a gold or silver plated ring, the Trellie module and a charger. The ring itself will come in four or five different colours, all of which look very 'costume cocktail', and Trellie plans to make ten different accessories, including bracelets, available at launch.
It's still very early days for smart jewellery so it remains to be seen how many women will consider the added value of untethering from their smartphone. But Aldridge is optimistic about leading the charge.
"We feel like women have largely been overlooked historically when it comes to consumer electronics and now wearable technology," he said. "There is a huge opportunity to cater to womens' desired attributes in technology (which are much different to mens') and I think doing so will be a key factor in taking wearable tech to the mass market."