Cuff start-up: wearables for fashionistas

Today wearables are in vogue, but most of this technology rather focuses on function than style. Some fashionistas consider wearables clunky and think they don’t match their fancy bracelets or watch.
Cuff, a new wearable start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area, is making products to change the situation. Earlier this week, the company unveiled a line of accessories that look more like the jewelry featured in an issue of Vogue, than hardware from the pages of Wired, NYT reports. Cuff’s accessories are also different than the current wearables in another way — rather than focusing on fitness tracking or smartphone notifications, Cuff is positioning its product as a personal security system. The Cuff collection consists of pendants, bracelets, necklaces, and key chains in a variety of finishes and textures. There are bracelets made of leather and metal with names like The Lena, The Carin and The Mia, necklaces (The Lisa, The Soleil) and keychains (The J and The G). The line is meant to be unisex, and offers options for both men and women. Each piece is anchored by a small rectangular component called the “CuffLinc,” which acts as the alert system. CuffLincs can be removed and tucked into any of the pieces in the Cuff collection.Underlying all of the Cuff accessories is a belief that there needs to be a higher fashion quotient to wearable technology if people, especially women, are to wear them, Cuff’s founder, Deepa Sood said in an interview. “There’s this aesthetic vision that technology doesn’t have to scream technology,” said Ms. Sood, who has long made jewelry on her own. “That was super appealing to me. Cuff’s line of accessories, which range from $50 to $150, act a bit like remote controls for the smartphones that they connect wirelessly to and on which they depend for access to the Internet. Initially the company is emphasizing personal security as one of the main uses of the devices, Deepa Sood said in an interview. A woman who encounters a threatening situation on the street or elsewhere can press her finger to a Cuff bracelet on her wrist, which will then send an electronic distress signal to one or more people she has authorized through the Cuff app to receive those messages. The signal will reveal her physical location. A senior citizen can do the same if they’ve fallen and can’t get up. A wearer of a Cuff accessory can program any number of other actions to occur on their smartphones — for instance, a tap of the wrist can send an automated message alerting family that the wearer is driving home. Using Bluetooth technology, the CuffLinc will connect to your phone via Cuff’s app. If a wearer squeezes the Cuff, an alert will go to the designated people in the wearer’s network. If anyone in the network is wearing a Cuff, their Cuff will vibrate. If they don’t have a Cuff, they will receive a push notification to their phone with the alert with the location of the sender. You can set up which of your contacts will get an alert via the startup’s app, which also holds personal and medical information like blood type, health issues and more. "Imagine a mom puts [a CuffLinc] on her teenage daughter and also puts it on her aging mother," explains Cuff founder Deepa Sood. "When you press it, they get a sort of smart propagation depending on who's closest in your social network and who's closest geographically. And then the receiver, if they're wearing a cuff, their cuff will vibrate." You can also customize the vibration pattern, so the recipient will know it’s not a real emergency. "S.O.S. is the primary function, but even in the first roll out it's not just for emergencies," says Sood. "If I’m wearing the Cuff, I can program it so my husband and my babysitter can always get through to me even if my phone's not on me — it'll vibrate and them I know I have to step out and reach them." The technology inside the accessories includes a battery that lasts a year so people don’t have to recharge them constantly. There’s an accelerometer chip inside them which will allow Cuff to later turn on walking- and sleep-monitoring functions like those in the Jawbone Up, a bracelet that people use to keep track of their daily activity levels. Cuff also plans to license CuffLinc to other fashion retailers and designers so they can potentially build around the technology. Cuff is the brainchild of Deepa Sood, who was previously a former VP of Product Development at luxury retailer Restoration Hardware. Sood has been making her own jewelry for a while, and realized that there was very little wearable technology on the market that actually looks like jewelry. Another startup that is doing something similar to Cuff is Sense6, while Misfit Shine offers a number different colors and leather bands. And Fitbit and Tory Burch have teamed up to create a new line of fashion-forward wearables. Cuff is already thinking about more features it can add down the line. As the CuffLinc is connected to your phone with Bluetooth, the team envisions using it as a remote to trigger different features, like skipping songs or taking a photo. "Very soon we’ll be peeling off behavior from your phone," says Sood. "We’ve talked about taking a picture, or making your phone ring to get out of a bad date. People really liked that one." New features will be enabled via a software update, and different click patterns can be assigned to trigger your phone. Unfortunately, it’s going to take some time before we know whether the Cuff system takes off — even though preorders are now open (with accessories priced at $35, $65, and $125, including a CuffLinc), they won’t ship to customers until the end of the year. Cuff hopes to release more jewelry variations, and even find retail partners. Olga Yazhgunovich, Source: Voice Of Russia

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