And now, jew­elry goes smart

Neck­laces, bracelets aren’t just sta­tus sym­bols, fash­ion ac­ces­sories, hedg­ing tools— new brands give them the high-tech, mul­ti­pur­pose edge

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By ZHU WENQIAN zhuwen­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Bei­jing-based Tot­woo, China’s first smart jew­elry maker that started mass pro­duc­tion in June, has gone dig­i­tal with a store on on­line mar­ket­place JD.com in late July.

By mar­ry­ing pre­cious met­als with high-tech wear­ables, Tot­woo has come up with what prom­ises to be a whole new cat­e­gory of fash­ion­able tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts.

Jing Jing, a jew­elry ex­pert and ed­i­tor of Harper’s Bazaar Jew­elry in China, said: “Chi­nese con­sumers have started to change their mind­set. From buy­ing jew­elry as hedg­ing tools, they are now buy­ing them as fash­ion­able dec­o­ra­tions. Smart jew­elry with rich aes­thetic val­ues and high-tech func­tions could be­come a brand new cat­e­gory.”

To be sure, Tot­woo is bullish on the growth po­ten­tial of smart jew­elry in China.

For the un­in­formed, here’s how smart jew­elry works: a tap or a shake will­make a gold­plated sil­ver neck­lace or a Swarovski crys­tal-stud­ded bracelet with em­bed­ded cir­cuitry dou­ble up as a pe­dome­ter.

Tap, tap, tap ... shake, shake shake— and, presto, the smart jew­elry piece mul­ti­tasks as a calo­rie con­sump­tion cal­cu­la­tor, a re­minder of your seden­tary state (like pro­longed desk work or TV-view­ing) and a mon­i­tor of harm­ful ul­tra vi­o­let rays.

That’s not all. You can switch on the ‘ shin­ing mode’ to make the jew­elry flash con­tin­u­ously, which will likely make you the cyno­sure of all eyes.

Each piece of smart jew­elry now re­tails in the price range of 1,000 yuan ($150) to 2,000 yuan.

But there is still a long way to go. For, al­though the over­all jew­elry mar­ket in China is es­ti­mated at 500 bil­lion yuan, Chi­nese per-capita ex­pen­di­ture on jew­elry is only 10 per­cent that of Amer­i­cans’.

Com­pared with cloth­ing, bags and cos­met­ics, jew­elry in China lacks in brand­ing power. Well-known brands ac­count for only 25 per­cent share of the over­all jew­elry mar­ket.

Be­sides, the jew­elry sec­tor does not have a strong dig­i­tal foot­print. E-com­merce plat­forms gen­er­ate less than 10 per­cent of jew­elry sales.

This pro­vides sig­nif­i­cant growth space for new­com­ers, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by Luxe Co, a Chi­nese web­site on lux­ury prod­ucts and as­so­ci­ated life­styles.

One such new­comer is, of course, Tot­woo. Co-founded by Wang Jiem­ing, a Chi­nese in­ter­net en­tre­pre­neur, and Ital­ian de­signer Marco Dal Maso last year, it re­ceived nearly 10 mil­lion yuan from an­gel in­vestors to­wards cap­i­tal.

The com­pany said it would soon launch more smart jew­elry col­lec­tions, with some for men. A few pieces will have up­graded func­tions, and will likely in­cor­po­rate pop­u­lar tech­nolo­gies like aug­mented re­al­ity (or AR, which uses com­puter sim­u­la­tion to over­lay vir­tual ob­jects and char­ac­ters on top of real life en­vi­ron­ment).

“It’s dif­fi­cult to com­bine jew­elry and smart hard­ware. The two are to­tally dif­fer­ent, but the chal­lenge is to re­tain the fea­tures of each one. Prod­ucts sim­i­lar to Tot­woo’s are be­ing planned in other coun­tries, but most of them are at a con­cep­tual stage. Tot­woo is the first smart jew­elry brand that has achieved mass pro­duc­tion,” saidWang.

Mass pro­duc­tion does not nec­es­sar­ily mean hordes of buy­ers are mak­ing a bee­line for smart jew­elry. Some con­sumers said they still pre­fer tra­di­tional jew­elry with var­i­ous ex­quis­ite de­signs.

For in­stance, Du Ni, a 27-year-old of­fice worker in Bei­jing, said: “I might not buy smart jew­elry as I’m not that into do­ing sports. Those high­tech func­tions are un­nec­es­sary for me, and the de­signs avail­able now are lim­ited.”

Mei Tao, deputy di­rec­tor of the China Wear­able Com­put­ing In­no­va­tion and Strate­gic Al­liance, said: “The smart wear­ables sec­tor is one of the hottest business ar­eas now. A com­bi­na­tion of wear­able tech­nolo­gies and jew­elry would meet cus­tomers’ needs. Com­pa­nies should en­cour­age buy­ers to ac­cept smart jew­elry as con­sumer goods first, and then strive to­wards vi­able business mod­els.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Vis­i­tors take pho­tos of smart jew­elry at the launch of the Tot­woo brand in late July in Bei­jing.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A bracelet with built-in pe­dome­ter, calo­rie-con­sump­tion me­ter, UV mon­i­tor and seden­tary state de­tec­tor.

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