This past week, in San Francisco, I chaired the 11th Smart Fabrics and Wearable Tech conference.

adidas sponsors this annual gathering of firms working in this dynamic of next generation wearables.

The companies that attend range from Yahoo, Victoria’s Secret, Harley-Davidson, Fjord, BASF, Google, Intel, Kayser-Roth, LuLuLemon, Nike, Microsoft, FitBit, Ogilvy, Department of Defense, Patagonia, Toyota, P&G, Philips to the US Department of Defense.

I always look forward to this particular conference because it lets you glimpse into the future of wearable technology and triggers the provocative questions about the possibility of innovation that can be anticipated for adidas in the sport space.

There were speakers covering subjects as broad as:

  • wearable design
  • sustainability of electro fabrics and devices
  • the patent minefield
  • smart fabric trends including flexible materials grown from wine and beer bacteria
  • lighting in clothing
  • flexible printed batteries
  • 3-D printing of clothing
  • emotion sensing from wearables
  • implanted wearables under the skin
  • and clothing with cell phone antennae.

A few sounds bites stayed with me from the conference:

1. Studies show that if people walk 7,500 steps per day, the average cost of healthcare goes down 25%. That’s how sports has the power to change lives!

2. 2/3 of homeless people have smart phones. Mobile first!

3. Sensors + immersive displays (think Virtualy Reality glasses like Occulus Rift) + gesture control + data mining learning systems = MAGIC

4. Millennials don’t think McDonald’s is ‘fast food’ because it takes 30 seconds to get served.  Not fast enough. So McDonald’s has used big data to profile people in the drive-through. With 80% accuracy, they can predict what you will order based on your car type, so they can start making your order before you even get to the order speaker. adidas needs to be that smart with or data to win the ‘SPEED’ game.

5. Innovation and big break-through creativity happens at the intersection of disciplines. That new intersection requires you to become a novice because it’s brand new territory. Are you willing to become a novice again to make something great?

6. Look up images for ‘3-D printed cast’, ‘3-D prosthetic leg’.  I was inspired by the notion of making something so desirable and functional that you’d want to wear it even if you were not disabled.  How do we bring that level of jaw-dropping cool to our products?

7. The projections around 3-D printer scanners and the ability to customize got me thinking about the radical change in the wearable electronics business model going from making one device or service for a million people to making a million devices or digital experiences for a million people. I’ll be thinking about that possibility of this OPEN-SOURCE certain trend.

Stacey Burr, taking time out to network with leading "women in wearables" at the Smart Fabrics Conference. (f.l.t.r. Tricia Wilson Nguyen – President Fabric Works, Maggie Orth – Founder International Fashion Machines, Justyna Teverovsky – Partner - Fabric Works, Stacey Burr – VP/GM adidas Digital Sports, Meg Burich – Director Market Development – adidas digital sports)

Finally, there was a talk that left me with a deep impact.

Amanda Boxtel is a beautiful athlete who was sent into a wheel chair 23 years ago from a ski accident.  On stage at the conference she put on a Tony Stark, IronMan exoskeleton.  Think a sleek-ish body brace loaded with sensors.

Amanda stood up and walked across the stage.  Her smile of triumph brought the audience to tears.

If you want to see that courageous journey of a real hero who is making a difference, check out minute 8 of her TED Talk.

To enable people to exceed their perceived physical limits – be it standing erect or running marathon through wearable technology – was a huge inspiration and served as powerful reminder of the impact that adidas can have on creating products that change lives.

Stay tuned for some exciting product from Digital Sports in 2015 and 2016.

We aren’t done, we’re just getting started.


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by William Anderson 26.05.2015
Great insights and innovations. Thank you for leading and for sharing.

Bill Anderson

VP Social & Environmental Affairs