In high fashion, sometimes the less functional a piece of clothing or accessory is, the higher its aesthetic prestige on the runway. However, when consumers are walking on the street or commuting to work, apparel isn’t just expected to be minimally cumbersome, but functionally complementary to every day life.
So why aren’t more fashion retailers thinking about high-tech jewelry like Ringly is?
In an interview with Forbes, Ringly Founder and CEO Christina Mercando explained that her company’s mission lies in combining the connected nature of devices on the Internet of Things with the growing field of tech-enabled fashion. Launched in 2013, Ringly specializes in designing rings and other jewelry that syncs to customers’ smartphones, providing customized notifications for the on-the-go woman. And Mercando believes that this functionality can help women free themselves from being chained to their screens without sacrificing all those digital amenities.
“What makes Ringly different is that we’ve created devices that are simple, stylish and unobtrusive,” Mercando told Forbes. “We’re focused equally on the fashion and the technology of our products because we believe technology should be subtle and jewelry should be smart.”
So what exactly can Ringly’s products do? After connecting an accessory to a smartphone and choosing customized notification settings in a provided app, high-tech fashionistas' Ringly products can either vibrate or flash a light when the associated phone receives selected messages. Different colors and vibrations can help users differentiate between texts, calls and emails.
“We’ve heard from a wedding photographer who is able to keep her phone in her purse while photographing an event, but still stay connected to her family in case of an emergency,” Mercando said. “We’ve also heard from new moms using Ringly when heading back into the workplace. Instead of feeling tethered to their phones, they have Ringly alert them if their nanny is texting or calling them.”
If Ringly offered nothing more than fashionable pagers people can wear on their fingers, there might not be much excitement around Mercando’s ideas. But a recent partnership with MasterCard just might give the brand some added credibility, while also enhancing the product's offerings. MasterCard announced at Money 20/20 that the two companies have partnered to bring the financial services firm’s new NFC platform to Ringly’s products, potentially enabling contactless payments with nothing but the tap of a ringed finger.
“We created Ringly to keep women connected to the people, messages and notifications that are important to them,” Mercando said in a joint statement with MasterCard. “Through our partnership with MasterCard, Ringly will not only be able to keep people connected, but will provide another layer to how our customers can use their jewelry while on the go. Our mission is to make women’s lives more manageable through beautiful jewelry and discreet technology.”
If Ringly and MasterCard can make this partnership pan out, it could represent a significant leap for the advancement of mobile payments as a viable commercial platform. Seamless consumer experiences are everything in breaking down inertial resistance to transitioning from cash and cards to mobile payment devices, and customers may be more amenable to tapping their high-tech rings on POS systems rather than digging phones out of their pockets and purses, entering passcodes and then navigating to the appropriate apps.
“We’re shaping and defining an entirely new category of jewelry and fashion accessories,” Mercando told Forbes. “Doing this comes with a lot of challenges, but also comes with a lot of rewards. Being a part of the history of jewelry, by merging new technology with something that’s been around for hundreds of thousands of years, really excites me.”
If Ringly’s customers demonstrate a fraction of the passion Mercando brings to the tech fashion table, connected jewelry might find itself with its finger on the pulse of a new and lucrative market.