Technology & Fashion: Part 1 - Footwear

To the average consumer technology and fashion are two entirely separate industries, rarely coexisting or collaborating. But if we pause, and think about where our clothing comes from, we will find that without technology the brands that we adore and love today would struggle to exist.

Technology - A Key Selling Point for Footwear

These days, major brands like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour are using scientific technology to position themselves as leaders of the footwear industry. To be clear, this is nothing entirely new. In 1988, Reebok was one of the first companies to use technology as a key selling point, claiming that their Reebok Pump could be quite literally pumped up to fit your foot in the most ideal way possible, giving consumers a shoe that felt more natural to the design of their feet. Never before had a shoe been designed with a fully adjustable fit, and it didn’t take long for the shoe to gain national attention: when Dee Brown pumped up his shoes right before throwing down a monster dunk in the 1991 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Reebok knew it struck gold and quickly developed a new line of Pump’s dedicated for all major sports, ranging from the tennis court to the golf course.

Since then, technology has played a major role in the development of these major brands. Nike captivated an entire generation with their line of Nike Shox, a basketball and training shoe that came out in the early 2000’s with one simple promise: you’ll jump higher than ever before with a pair of Shox on your feet. I myself had a few pair of Shox’s, and I can vividly recall the feeling of owning a pair. Did they make me jump higher? Absolutely not. But I felt pretty cool wearing them, and my 10 year old brain trusted the technology enough to buy into their promise of making me a better basketball player.

Shoes like Nike Shox, or the Reebok Pump, made large promises to the consumer with little scientific research to back it up. Yes, it was new and exciting, but did it really make a difference? There wasn’t, and still isn’t any hard evidence that the shoes truly lived up to their competitive advantages, but that didn’t stop Americans from rushing into retail stores to get their hands on the latest drop.

10 Years Later - Things Have Changed

Gone are the days of gimmicky promotions, at least to a certain extent. Industry leaders are now backing up their competitive advantages with impressive, detailed reports of scientific research that neatly outline the technology behind their high-end products. Nike continues to dominate the shoe game thanks to their advanced Flyknit series, a shoe designed by a team of engineers, and programmers. The Flyknit material is woven and ran through computers with immense processing power, creating a lightweight shoe that has taken the market by storm thanks to it’s key influencer's like Kobe Bryant.

It’s not just Nike, as Adidas continues to release shoe lines with impressive technology behind their footwear. In hopes of disrupting the industry the company infamous for it’s 3 stripes recently collaborated with BASF, the world’s leading chemical company. The two industry giants created the Ultra Boost, a shoe that is now often regarded as the most comfortable and fashionable shoe on the market. Engineers and developers blew up a material known as TPU, then remolded it in a way to capture and give back the most energy possible to the wearer of the shoe. The Boost has been so successful that Adidas has adopted it to all major sports: if you’re a basketball fan, you can currently see James Harden rocking his own version of the Boost in the NBA playoffs.

Taking It One Step Further

Following the success of these major companies, entrepreneurs and angel investors have quickly realized the benefits of combining technology with footwear. But they’re not interested in creating a shoe like the Boost. Instead, they want to take things one step further and bridge the gap between footwear and online connectivity.

Iofit has revolutionized the golfing industry with their smart shoe served to improve a golfer’s game. If you’ve ever golfed, you know how important it is to have a balanced and smooth swing, appropriately shifting your weight as you follow through and drive the ball towards the green. But if you’re like me, you struggle with consistency: you’ll drive a ball 250 yards only to come back and slice a ball 30 yards in the wrong direction. That’s where Iofit comes in. The impressive shoe deeply submerged in technology can relay data that details the golfer's motions while hitting the ball. You can find out how much pressure you’re putting on each foot, which heel is supporting your swing the most, and how evenly balanced your hips are. The shoe not only relays this data back to the user, but it also makes suggested improvements that fit the golfers style of play.

If you’re not a fan of golf but love the idea of a smart shoe and enjoy outdoor activities then you’re in luck, as the company Aria has recently developed an insole dedicated towards maximizing your comfort during outdoor activities. The smart-sole is controlled through an app on your phone that allows you to customize it however you please. It has plenty of cool features that incorporate social media and data tracking, but what really makes it stand out is it’s adjustable temperature that can either cool or warm the user. Yes, you read that right, insoles can now literally warm you up or cool you down by integrating technology and online connectivity.

Onward & Upward! 

Remember going to the mall and seeing the pop-up stores that sold shoes that had lights on the bottom of the soles? Not too long ago, that was a pretty big deal. Entrepreneurs could turn a quick profit by simply putting in some cheap LED lights that lit up when a person’s foot would touch the ground. At the time, that was kind-of-sort-of considered cutting edge technology, because there had yet to be a healthy amount of shoes deeply integrated in the tech world. But oh how things can quickly change. In 10 years, we’ve gone from gimmick to woah, it can do that?! My feet are tingling just thinking about what will come within the next decade!

Beyond reality: the future of human interface

Virtual Reality, the once thought of next-in-line booming technology appears to be at a standstill. Even with the support of heavy-hitting corporations the technology has yet to explode like many experts predicted it would. It’s still early, but the experiment stage is over with. Billions of dollars have been poured into this industry and if the results continue to be underwhelming it will soon be looked at a quirky trend that never lived up to its potential.

Gaming Industry Plaguing VR

Thanks to sci-fi novels and blockbuster hits the average consumer typically associates VR with the gaming industry. Because of this, tech leaders have invested billions of dollars into the most coveted VR companies like the Oculus Rift, but even with the influence and money behind these major companies the VR gaming industry has yet to experience significant growth.

One obvious reason behind this lack of growth is the limited amount of games offered by these VR companies. None of the world’s highest grossing video games can be played through virtual reality. Users cannot throw a pass in the newest Madden, nor can they shoot down an enemy tanker in the latest Call of Duty. What they can do is play games like Job Simulator, or Farm Harvester.

Eight out of ten homes own a next-gen console. The numbers for how many virtual reality headsets have been sold have yet to be discovered, but it doesn’t reach beyond hundreds of thousands. One serious disadvantage VR gaming has is that it cannot compete with the graphics offered by consoles like the Xbox One or PS4. Players who are used to playing games like FIFA or Halo are used to the selling point of better graphics equals better gameplay. How do you reverse an entire generations thinking? The gaming industry has only itself to blame as they are the ones who developed this ideology in the first place.

Lack of Modernization

For how futuristic it’s supposed to be virtual reality severely lacks the sleek modernized look that should come with a new and exciting advancement of technology. As of now, popular headsets like the HTC Vive are extremely bulky. Users have to place chunky devices over their eyes and use controllers that look eerily similar to the first versions of the Nintendo Wii. There has yet to be a virtual reality device that doesn’t look like giant head-goggles attached to a phone. Oh, don’t forget, if you want to play online with other users you’ll have to connect to a computer and sit right next to your processor.

Not Enough Benefits

When you first put on a virtual reality headset you’ll likely be impressed. It’s exciting, how can’t it be? You just entered a new world! But give it ten, maybe fifteen minutes, and that rush will soon wear off. Not to mention the possible motion-sickness and discomfort that many users have reported of feeling after just 30 minutes of activity.

The fact of the matter is that virtual reality isn’t a new world, and users can easily tell that after a few experiences with any given VR device. Our eyes have been trained to stare at one flat screen, but now we’re being asked to turn 180 degrees within every minute of the game? That’s a hard sell for many consumers. Our days are already long, and most people will choose to get in their exercise the old-fashioned way. When you come from a long day do you want to strap on your 5 pound headset and move around your living room, or do you want to sit down and become a couch potato like the rest of us decent Americans.

As VR Stalls AR Thrives

While virtual reality has yet to reach the average consumer augmented reality is taking over the streets and your pocket cell-phone. You know those silly snapchat filters that you love to use? Or that beloved app known as Pokemon Go? That’s augmented reality, and it’s expected to have over 1 billion users by 2020, with revenue projected to be four times greater than VR. What’s the reason for this? It’s simple: augmented reality is much more user-friendly. Unlike VR, a user does not have to strap on any device over their head or eyes as they can simply use their current smartphone. It’s much more social and can be used in almost any setting, not limiting users to their computers or consoles. Graphics across both platforms are generally the same, but AR has more facial recognition capabilities. AR is not only user-friendly, it’s corporate friendly too. Advertising within virtual reality is dead, but AR advertising is just getting started. From virtual tours in brick and mortar shops to a primary medium for storytelling, AR advertising will soon be submerged within every major city. Don’t worry about finding the cheapest sweatshirt in NYC as it will soon find you through augmented reality!

VR Potential Beyond Gaming

The VR gaming industry is never going to take off like experts thought it would, but that doesn’t mean virtual reality is useless. In fact, where VR makes its biggest impact is far beyond the computer screen and mind of a 16 year old. It’s already being used in hospitals across the country as it acts a key resource to train young surgeons. But it doesn’t stop in the training field, VR can also be used to perform major surgeries: by using VR doctors across the globe can communicate and operate as if they are all standing in the same room, giving patients the ability to have insight and feedback from more than one doctor. It’s also being used to treat soldiers suffering from severe cases of PTSD, and so far, the results are nothing but positive. Virtual reality will soon be widely used across our educational and healthcare sectors, and for good reason as collaboration is almost always a good thing and something that this country could use more of.

Conclusion

Both virtual and augmented reality will continue to receive billions of dollars from investors hoping to become the next Apple or Microsoft. Many of these startups will fail, but the few that succeed will become global influencers. The race is on, whose going to make it to the finish line?

5 reasons you should (and shouldn't) use a Kickstarter campaign

Popular crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have earned a reputable reputation within the entrepreneurial arena, and for good reason. It's played a large role in shaping the crowdfunding market, which is now estimated to be well worth over $2 billion with the potential to reach as high as $93 billion by 2025. Some campaigns have raised more than six figures in less than 24 hours, while others have gone on to raise tens of millions of dollars for as simple of an idea as a horror themed board game. But with all that success comes plenty of failure. 14 % of Kickstarter campaigns fail to receive any pledges, and the current success rate of Kickstarter campaigns sits at 36%, meaning for every success story there are two failures quietly hidden and tucked away in the vast online fields of the internet.  

Kickstarter isn't going away anytime soon, no matter how many times the company may boast a failed project. The crowdfunding tool can be a great resource to help you grow your business or bring attention to a product or service you're hoping to successfully introduce to the market, but that doesn't always mean it's the right path to take. Let's have a look at the top 5 reasons why you should and shouldn't carry out a Kickstarter campaign for your product or business.  

5 Reasons You Should Use a Kickstarter Campaign  

1) If you have an idea for a tabletop board game then Kickstarter is absolutely the right place for you to launch your campaign.  In previous years online video gaming projects generated the most hype, largely because in 2015 the category had an average of over $100,000 for successful campaigns. But now board games seem to be the current fad, earning an average of $65,418 in 2017 and surpassing the flat growth of the online gaming world.

2) Your campaign doesn’t require too high of a funding goal. Backers want to believe that the project they are backing has a legitimate chance of being successful, or else why would they waste their time and money on your business? If your project falls below six figures it will have a greater chance of reaching its goal.

3) You lack real-world connections. Let’s face it, in today’s world who you know can be just as, if not more important than what you know. If you don’t have a strong social network that features angel investors or witty business tycoons then this platform can be your gateway to reaching the people you need in order to be successful.

4) You have a variety of rewards that can be given out for a multitude of pledges. If you only have one product to sell, how will you get people to donate $200 instead of $50? If your business can offer a diverse set of rewards and promises to your backers it will make your campaign look more attractive in the consumer’s eyes, because everyone wants options!

5) You have a strong PR campaign specifically made for the crowdfunding project. One of the most common traits among all successful campaigns is that they feature highly professional looking press kits and videos. If you don’t have a tutorial or a simple video explaining your project then how will consumers fully understand and recognize the benefits of pledging money to your campaign? Video is the new norm across all platforms, because who likes to read!?

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Use a Kickstarter Campaign  

1) Your project requires a timeline longer than 30 days. The most successful campaigns feature short timelines. Statistics prove that projects with a long time stamp struggle to bring in revenue largely because backers don’t want to wait that long to receive their rewards.

2) Your product is heavily revolved around growing technology. The technology category is currently ranked 3rd on the most funded categories through Kickstarter. However, this is largely due to a few successful projects that raised over tens of millions of dollars in a short amount of time. The failure rate of technology projects is much greater than the average failure rate as currently 4 out of every 5 tech projects will fail to reach their targeted goals.

3) You don’t have the money to invest in promoting your campaign. If you can’t afford to pay for email subscription lists, online targeted advertisements, or PR campaigns then don’t even bother. Kickstarter is a massive platform with tens of thousands of shiny objects and fun projects. If you can’t invest money within online marketing tools served to broadcast your project then there is little chance anyone notices your business to begin with.

4) You’re not fully confident you can fulfill your orders if your goals are reached. 1 out of every 9 successful campaigns will fail to live up to their promises, leaving their consumers empty handed. There is no quicker way to ruin the integrity of your company then by failing to deliver on a reward you made available to the consumers who supported you before anyone else did.

5) You don’t have the right set of qualifications to prove to potential consumers that you can handle this project. If you’re a new company trying to sell a baseball bat, someone on your team better have experience as a player, coach, or working professional in the industry. When consumers are giving money for a product that has yet to be developed they are placing quite a bit of trust in you and your company. These consumers will likely check out your website, experience, and testimonials. Simply put, if you can’t prove that you have the right background for the specific project you’re offering backers will have a difficult time trusting your alleged capabilities.

For some, Kickstarter can be a tool used to help take their business to the next level. But for others, it can act as the final blow to their dwindling company. Remember, what you do online cannot be erased. A failed Kickstarter campaign will plague your company for years to come if you cannot properly handle the negative publicity that comes with it. Happy crowdfunding! 

The rapidly growing world of the drones

In 2013 Amazon teased it’s drone delivery service known as Prime Air, which came with quite a bit of skepticism, largely due to the fact that during this time period the word drone was often associated with intense global affairs and world war. The hobbyist market had yet to take off, thus why when people heard the word drone it often came with negative associations. After the initial 2013 release, Amazon and it’s drone delivery service stayed relatively quiet, that is until early 2016 when they released their first video which detailed how the delivery service would work.

The worlds largest online retailer once again found itself submerged in global headlines, this time experiencing a more welcoming public response. The craze following the video which reached over 10's of millions of views through Facebook and YouTube garnered enough attention that major competitors began to come up with their own drone delivery services, Facebook and YouTube garnered enough attention that major competitors began to come up with their own drone delivery services, realizing the potential behind the emerging technology.

Everyone wants a piece of the pie

Following Amazon's successful first attempt, industry leading corporations soon began to roll out their own unique plans of incorporating drones within their business models. Walmart made a statement that revealed the company would soon be using drones within their 190 distribution centers, each serving around 100 to 150 individual stores spread throughout the United States. By using drones within their warehouses, Walmart can cut down on the amount of boxes they are using to store products as well as handle inventory at a much more efficient rate, saving them both time and money. 

Plenty of skepticism has surrounded Amazon and their drone delivery services, leading some industry leaders to focus on other areas of potential growth. Apple recently partnered with drone maker DJI, a company who sells highly advanced products to drone enthusiasts. The partnership will ensure that DJI makes all of their future products Apple compatible, allowing users to control their highly advanced flying machines through a simple app which can be installed on any Apple device. 

Amazon isn't the only leading delivery service hoping to gain new consumers through drone marketing campaigns. UPS began testing it's own drone services as early as 2016, and recently rolled out a more detailed plan on how the company plans to use drones in the near future. UPS plans to station drones on delivery trucks, which can fly away and deliver packages while the driver is making separate deliveries, slashing the standard delivery time in half!

Drones are also starting to play a meaningful role within the construction industry. In late 2017, construction firm Balfour Beauty completed their first trial of using drones to inspect building sites and bridges, which ended up saving the firm a total 8,000 euros compared to traditional practices. Expect drones to play an increasing role within this industry as 3D mapping is a heck of a lot easier with a drone in the sky. 

Legal issues plaguing delivery services

US policy makers have made it extremely difficult for large corporations to roll out their drone delivery services. FedEx, Amazon, and UPS were all hoping to test the waters in 2018 by offering limited services within heavy populated areas, but current US policy is making that nearly impossible to achieve. 

FAA's Part 107, a portion of federal law that covers drone policy includes a set of rules that place a severe set of limitations on the possibilities of expanding drone delivery services, including the following restrictions:

  1. The drone must be within visible sight of the pilot in control 
  2. The drone cannot be operated from a moving vehicle 
  3. The drone cannot be operated near public air spaces 
  4. Fully autonomous drones cannot be used for commercial uses 
  5. The pilot can only control one drone at a time

UPS plans for rolling out commercial drones involved a moving vehicle, while Amazon planned to use real time data that would help create an autonomous drone, both of which violate multiple restrictions within US drone policy. If corporations wish to use drones for delivery purposes, their going to have to get extremely creative if they wish to avoid legal consequences. 

Making a difference

The nonprofit sector has quietly been experimenting with drones, with companies often time using them for creative projects that could not be carried out without the help of the advanced machines. From Africa to Europe, a handful of nonprofits are helping create a safer and healthier planet by creating world changing solutions powered through drones. 

To combat the spread of Zika, WeRobotics developed a drone meant to fly sterile mosquitoes to high at-risk regions within Africa where male mosquitoes are overpopulating and spreading deadly diseases. The nonprofit released 100,000 sterile males per mission, releasing them during mating seasons. The creative strategy incorporating advanced drones heavily reduces mosquito population levels within affected areas, helping save lives and reduce the number of mosquito borne illnesses, which take over 750,000 lives per year.

Another nonprofit looking to make a global impact through drone implementation is Women on Waves, a dutch based nonprofit that empowers women by providing free, basic healthcare services among a variety of other assistance programs. The nonprofit is currently using drones to deliver birth control pills to underdeveloped countries across the globe. The campaign began in 2014 and is currently being used across Europe and Africa. 

Drones are also playing a critical role within the fight to protect endangered species. National parks are beginning to use their advanced capabilities to better understand and track animals who are in danger of becoming extinct.  UAV & Drone Solutions have partnered with a handful of popular African national parks to track animals while also keeping an eye out for poaches looking to make a serious profit. The partnership has helped assist in the arrest of multiple poaching groups, helping create a more stable and safe environment for the worlds most endangered species. 

Professional spots.. and drones? 

Perhaps where drones are making their biggest impact is within the world of professional sports. The Drone Racing League is the worlds first professional drone racing circuit, touring across the US and hosting events in major cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, and New York City. The league originated in 2015, and has experienced rapid growth in just a few short years. The league secured a broadcasting deal with ESPN in 2016, and early viewership ratings have been encouraging as the league reached an audience of over 30 million people in 2017 alone. The recent success has been so great the league plans to expand the circuit all the way to South East Asia for the 2018 season. The recent announcement of the global expansion helped lead the league to larger investments, as they recently struck a deal with FOX Sports, who will earn exclusive rights within their Asian broadcasting network.

DRL also recently announced their largest sponsorship to date, a 5 year, global deal with insurance brand Allianz. The insurance giant earned title rights, meaning the circuit, trophy, and league divisions will all include the name Allianz along with the company logo. The company was an early investor within the world of Esports, a professional gaming circuit experiencing a wealth of growth. 

The world of virtual gaming, known as ESports went from an afterthought to a multi-billion dollar industry in just a few short years, with colleges now offering full-ride scholarships to the nations most elite gamer's. Many industry experts believe that drone racing is currently on pace to experience the same amount of success, largely because of the massive sponsors and broadcasting deals that are set in place for years to come. 

 

Rolling out a new product? Follow these 10 steps to ensure a successful launch

1) Understand your market

Hopefully you did plenty of research before designing your product, but now that it’s finished, it’s time to go back and take a deeper look at your potential audiences. Focus groups, experiments, surveys, and expert interviews can all act as a resourceful marketing tool to help you better understand your customers

2) Test it, and test it again

Owners make this mistake far too often. They get excited about a new product, and jump to mass production before thoroughly testing their invention. Having to recall your product will be detrimental to the success of your company.

3) Create the story, aligning with your brand identity

What’s the purpose behind the product? Why was your company the one to invent it? How does it fit in to your overall brand? If you can’t answer these questions, PR professionals and potential customers will be weary of promoting your product. Sloppiness, or a lack of brand identity surrounding your product will result in uninspired customers.

4) Offer early incentives, acting as a ‘soft launch’

Why launch your product to the masses when you can do a soft launch filled with people of your own network who can offer objective feedback? You can then use that feedback to perfect your product before mass production

5) Bootstrapping > Pouring thousands of dollars into large marketing campaigns

I get it. You have a great product, and you want to create the most amazing marketing campaign to go along with it. But it’s 2018, the internet is a tool in itself, and there are plenty of free marketing tools to help you successfully market your product. You can use Canva to create free, professional looking marketing tools. Google Analytics provides a wealth of information regarding your website & social traffic, and Facebook pixel advertising has been proven to reap huge results, with owners pouring 0 dollars into the social platform.

6) Know your competition as well as you know yourself

What is your direct competitors plans for the near future? Do they have anything similar to your product? Is there a chance they can copy your idea and make it into their own? Is there a way that you could potentially work together, or join forces on this one project? People often look at competition as the enemy, but why? Competition, especially in the business world, can be a great resource for your business. Notice what they're doing well. Track their customer feedback, and take a mental note of what people wish they improved on. 

7) Pricing is key

Turning a profit is important, and if you have investors, that's going to be the figure that everyone is most concerned with. However, a cultural shift is happening within our capitalist society. That shift is a consumer base that is becoming more aware of where their dollars are going. If you're price gauging, your customers will notice, and any trust that they once had will be diminished. 

8) Make it about more than just the product

You need to show to your customers that the main reason you created your product isn't to make money, but rather to make their lives easier by providing a solution to a problem that they continually endure. Showcase how with your product, life is either more enjoyable, less stressful, or simply easier to navigate through.

9) Get partners involved

If you don't have partners, then get your network involved. One of the best ways to promote a product, is to have someone else do it for you. If a trusted company promotes your product it will add value to it because consumers will associate a positive feeling with it before it even reaches their hands. You can only tell your story so many times, it's important to seek other avenues to get your message across to potential consumers. 

10) Be patient

If your product doesn't go viral right away, don't worry. Success doesn't come overnight, and in many cases, it may take a few months to see the traction you envisioned from day one.