We caught up with the CEO of the smart-apparel organisation Innovalley to discuss his views on his organisation and on how mobile technology can change our lives. Innovalley’s company profile on CrunchBase: “Innovalley is a California-based company that combines the latest technologies with fashion design to create smart apparel.” (read the full profile here)
Innovalley is the result of the merger of four different partners. Can you tell us how the organisation came together and what it’s all about?
Innovalley is an innovation company focused on smart apparel that was founded by Xavier Verdaguer, Diego Paredes and Ariadna Mateu. They came up with the idea and involved our previous companies (Blinds Consulting -a software development company owned by Xavier Verdaguer- and Haiku Studio -an innovation&design studio owned by Diego Paredes and Ariadna Mateu) in the project.
They had experience in developing innovative software products, but they knew we needed a lot of research to develop new textile materials, flexible electronics and clothing prototyping. This is the reason why they looked for two other partners to cover these areas. After a round of meetings, Cetemmsa, a technological center, and Cooked, a clothing brand from Barcelona, got on board as strategic partners.
Innovalley has its own management team, independent from these four companies, but relies on their support. Being backed by these partners has allowed Innovalley to move really fast and to prototype easily.
Your website places an emphasis on research and development – how far down the production and distribution chain do you intend to take your products?
We have a clear B2B strategy: that means that we come up with patented innovative concepts and then we co-design and co-develop the products with existing footwear and clothing companies. Therefore, our main revenues come from licensing programs and revenue sharing agreements with brands. This is the way we can focus on what we’re good at and the brands can use the power of their market recognition and distribution channels.
On the other hand, we have a Labstore (online store) on our site where we sell limited editions of our firsts beta-products, to test them and get results and feedback from users.
Tell us about your existing products and why they are game-changers.
We have identified 3 of the most advanced wearable technologies (sensors&actuators, photovoltaics and lighting) and have designed, developed and prototyped products for each area:
- Youshine, a collection of laptop bags with textile solar cells that charge electronic devices in an eco-friendly way
- GPShoes, an interaction/navigation system that naturally increases the amount of information the users get from their surroundings by synchronizing shoes and smartphones
- BCN2, a smart sweatshirt that incorporates a textile display which synchronizes with the user’s cell phone to show tweets and all kind of dynamic content.
The technology that we’ve developed to interact from the smartphone to the actuators/dynamic display is reusable for a lot of different application. We are continuously talking to brands to come up with different ways to package the technology and solve customer needs.
Where do you see smartphones and mobile technology fitting in to your business and what are the most exciting mobile technologies in existence today?
Smartphones are an essential part of our solutions. We understand clothing and accessories as a peripheral for some of the existing smartphone services, creating new ways to interact and, ultimately, better user experiences.
Smartphones today incorporate amazing technologies. We especially like geolocation and radio-frequency communication (like the coming Bluetooth Low Energy and NFC). Most of our solutions use accessible information based on the user location and create a new way to interact with it: for example, you can project the number of miles you have run on your sweatshirt instead of just tracking them on your smartphone.
What is the future for ‘smart apparel’ as you see it?
We envision a future where we all will be wearing tech-enabled clothing that is synchronized with an intelligent unit (maybe it’s not a smartphone anymore, but just a 3G card). This interaction will provide the user with new capabilities, like automatic temperature regulation or information projection. But we see the technology as a transparent element to the user’s eyes.
What is coming up in 2012 for Innovalley?
2012 is a very important year for Innovalley since it’s going to be our market consolidation. We expect to launch the GPShoes and the BCN2 with 2 of the brands with whom we’re currently negotiating.
The wearable technologies we’re using are becoming more accessible and reliable. This is going to be a key point to convince brands to invest in them and accelerate the market penetration.
What would your ideal collaboration/partner be for a future product?
The textile sector is rapidly changing. Some clothing and footwear companies are struggling due to the increase of raw material prices and the aggressive competition in Asia. We believe that technology is a tremendous trend in our society and can help brands differentiate their existing products from competitor’s.
Our ideal partner is a well-known brand that wants to take the leap and integrate some of our technologies in their existing products to reformulate their value proposition.
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