Guest post by Ian Buckingham

Comic book superheroes were created in response to a social need arising from the widespread insecurity and fear generated by the world wars. They brought much needed moments of escapist excitement to the lives of children and adults alike, along with reassurances that the powers of good would eventually triumph over evil.

Yet the comic book creators quickly realised that the most admired of the superheroes were not the demi-Gods, but the ordinary men and women in the superhero ranks. While it was, of course, desirable to have the likes of Superman and Thor on the side of righteousness, the most engaging and alluring crusaders were the otherwise everyday folk who couldn’t rely on super genetics but who created super technology to defeat their foes using good, old fashioned, human ingenuity. They are the ones who are not born with superpowers but develop technology to become super powered.

It is this accessible vulnerability, this empowering geekiness that has been responsible for the mythology and enduring attractiveness of characters like Batman, Nite Owl, Star-Lord and Iron Man. They are, after all, workaday folk exemplifying strong personal values, a sense of higher purpose and most importantly the hard graft and ingenuity required to create tech that enables them to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the best. It’s not too far a leap of faith to fantasise that we could be like them or that they could certainly be walking among us. This sense of identification is strong.

Who, in turn, hasn’t harboured some sort of superhero fantasy or the dream of donning similar wearable technology in one form or another? Whether nurtured by that first digital calculator watch, tamagotchi or successive smart phone, any grafted-on power to keep the life-sapping tedium of the daily grind at bay is readily welcomed. Yet now those dreams of wearable tech are fast moving from comic book pages to everyday reality.

In 2009, Sony Ericsson and the London College of Fashion famously ran a contest to design digital clothing. The winner was a cocktail dress with Bluetooth technology that made it light up when a call was received. Incredibly, even that design already seems outmoded as, frankly, any wearer would now flash uncontrollably like a hyperactive Christmas tree given the rise in social media usage, predominantly on mobile devices.

The advertising industry, however, remains excited about the ongoing development of wearable tech, the interface with personalised media and the opportunities this affords to tailor marketing and deliver via interactive channels like living billboards, music and radio stations, bus shelters and other platforms.

Google famously launched Google Glass in 2013, optical head-mounted technology intended to record video and deliver voice-activated rich text and notification via a heads-up display worn as eyeglasses. The high penetration of smartphones in world markets has helped smartwatches and activity trackers exploit the wide availability and low cost of MEMS sensors, energy efficient technologies like Bluetooth 4 and a flourishing app ecosystem, often crowdfunded.

Whether for personal or business use, avant garde wearable tech gadgets are undeniably sexy. They already fulfil a range of functions:

  • Fitness and health tracker
  • Sport tracker
  • Alertness and energy gauge
  • Emergency tracker/alert
  • Remote treatment of hearing, speech and voice disorders
  • Specific health monitoring
  • Navigation tool
  • Media and music device
  • Communication gadget
  • Gateway to virtual reality for use in entertainment
  • Data synchronizer and communicator with other gadgets
  • Payment device
  • Fashion statement

But as the super brains get to work and the technology advances rapidly, this list continues to grow and the range of potential applications multiplies.

To be fair, in some cases the hype or weight of expectation has out-stripped the reality. Functionality has often been hamstrung by battery life, clunky or naff design or simply cost. This was the case with Google Glass where the unit price of around $2000 was restricting practical mass market appeal.

However, the designers are always listening and reacting and we are now entering an age where wearable tech is not only accessible to all, but will potentially be more efficient and cost effective for both consumers and businesses alike.

At the cutting edge of this age is Kerv Ring, the world’s first commercially available contactless payment ring. It may not have quite the functionality enjoyed by Green Lantern’s equivalent device, but it allows you to make payments simply with the tap of your hand against the payment terminal. Kerv Ring is a functional, practical and desirable piece of wearable technology that also facilitates travel on London’s tubes and buses. It doesn’t need pairing with a smartphone, it doesn’t need charging and as it’s waterproof and very hard wearing, you can take it anywhere – swimming, the beach, running (as any superhero would) and not worry about it.

Kerv Ring outshines Green Lantern’s power ring when it comes to paying for a coffee

Like the best super gadgets, it feels very light, and looks great – easily mistaken for an Apple device, such is the aesthetic appeal. The product has a real WOW factor, especially when people first see it being used, whether that be someone standing in the queue at a coffee shop, the person serving you at a bar, or a train inspector more accustomed to handling tickets.

While NFC and NFC payments has existed for many years – usually in plastic card form or latterly mobile app based, not until now could they be hosted in a device as small as a fashionable ring where the technology is invisible to the user. 

Yet the innovation doesn’t stop there. Future wearable products (from Kerv Wearables) will all be interchangeable i.e. it won’t matter which item you have on (watch, bracelet or even handbag) – the functionality will be consistent across them.

Considering that reports estimate that wearable payment transaction volume will grow from $3.1 billion in 2015 to $501.1 billion worldwide by 2020, Kerv Ring is set to acquire significant market share, first in countries where contactless adoption and fashion consciousness is high. These include the UK, Sweden, Poland and Germany (where Kerv is issued by PSI-Pay Ltd pursuant to a license by Mastercard International Incorporated) then Canada, Australia and the US. The Far and Middle East is expected to follow suit, especially as the technology applications continue at pace to incorporate different international platforms, and the fashion applications extend to high-end designers like Swiss watch manufacturers and couture houses.

To reference their Founder, Phil Campbell: “If a comparatively tiny UK designer and manufacturer of semiconductors like ARM can start from a small base in Cambridge and go on to out-sell Intel and become the go-to microchip in most of our households worldwide, there’s no reason why Kerv Wearables can’t become a household name in the next five years, especially as we marry tech with wearable design.”

As we recognised at the start of this piece, the most compelling and engaging superheroes are not those born to greatness but those who use their intelligence to become super powered. They get ahead and stay ahead through the controllable alchemy of innovation, and there’s something very engaging about that. Certainly in this regard, innovative brands like Kerv Wearables, are pathfinders. They gather fans because they listen, understand and anticipate the needs of consumers, fulfilling a desire for empowerment, functionality, bragging rights and control.

The Kerv crew may not turn their customers into superhumans yet, but they are helping to bring fantasies to life and to elevate them from the chasing pack. And in this age of ever conspicuous technology consumption, that’s a brand differentiator that more than packs a punch.

Ian Buckingham

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20 Sep 2017