Meggen Taylor , CONTRIBUTOR FORBES
Wearable tech has become all the rage, but most wearables aren’t very appealing for fashion-forward ladies (like myself) making them unlikely to become a wardrobe staple, which is a damaging paradox for any product that’s supposed to be wearable in the first place.
That’s all about to change with Wisewear, a hybrid fashion-tech company that launched in January 2016, and recently debuted a stylish collection of bracelets that deliver on form, function, and fashion.
Wisewear’s technology allows users to count their calories burned, keep track of steps and distances traveled, and it gently vibrates when the wearer receives a text, email, or has an upcoming appointment so you can stay in the moment rather that being obsessed with your phone. Most importantly, it has a distress messaging feature that texts your GPS location to your emergency contact list with a gentle tap to the bracelet.
Founder and CEO of Wisewear, Dr. Gerald Wilmink
Wisewear’s CEO and founder, Gerald Wilmink, PhD MBA tells me, “My grandfather, who raised me, broke his hip at the age of 79 when he was in otherwise perfect shape and sadly passed away a few days later after Christmas—it was devastating and I wanted to right a wrong”.
Since then Wilmink has applied his educational background in business and his PhD in Biomedical Engineering to create a family of wearbles that give users the power to lead healthier, more informed, and safer lives.
Compared with other wearables on the market, Wisewear’s game changer is its patented antenna that transmits Bluetooth with wifi. “Bluetooth and wifi can’t go through metal,” explains Wilmink, “So Wisewear is unique because we used our antenna technology to make fashionable jewelry”.
While the company specializes in advanced setting technologies, Wisewear also puts a premium on high-end design that clearly shows in The Socialite Collection, which offers three water resistant styles (Kingston, Duchess, and Calder) made of brass and plated in 18k precious metals like rose gold, palladium and gold.
Wisewear’s in-house design team earned pedigrees at Ippolita, Alexis Bitter, and Rachel Zoe so they are no strangers to understanding that anything wearable—whether it has a tech function or not—must also be a timeless piece of art.
“Technology is a beautiful thing and wearing it should be too,” says Wilmink. “Our goal is to empower consumers with the best technology and style so that they can live the balanced lifestyles that they deserve”.
Wisewear’s knack for merging fashion with technology has not gone unnoticed by the retail powerhouses already betting that fashionable tech (or is that functional fashion?) is on the verge of a market surge. Wisewear’s Socialite Collection will be available at Saks Fifth Avenue both online and at its flagship store the third week of September and will be launching a new collection in collaboration with fashion-icon Iris Apfel that will be available in Spring/Summer 2017. “It is an honor to know and to collaborate with such an iconic woman such as Iris,” Wilmink says. “Even in her 90’s she is still vivacious and full of energy. In fact, she can outpace me any day with her schedule”.
Wisewear’s most strategic competitive advantage, however, is their products’ universal appeal to multiple age demographics looking for a range of functions—which can be a challenging chord to strike. Wilmink tells me, “We knew we offered a strong value proposition for certain demographics like college aged women, but we have been surprised certain industries that have embraced us like realtors and women who travel alone for example”.
For our aging population with injuries gone are the days when LifeAlert and similar companies are the only options in the marketplace for distress messaging (have you seen the “That’s not for me. That’s for old people” television ad recently?). Now women of any age for any reason can look and feel stylish while staying connected.
If you’re a man reading this don’t worry. “We will be coming out with a line geared towards men soon,” Wilmink says. “I happen to wear ourKingston design, but understand that it may not be a look every man is comfortable wearing!”
Reprinted from http://sawoman.com/5053-2/
Gerald “Jerry” Wilmink, Ph.D., M.B.A., CEO Founder of WiseWear
BY JASMINA WELLINGHOFF & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ELIZABETH WARBURTON
Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Wilmink earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Vanderbilt University and, more recently, an M.B.A. from UT Austin, all of which prepared him well for what he is doing today as the founder and CEO of WiseWear, a promising tech startup that makes “wise” wearables. Though a number of companies have rushed into this field, WiseWear’s products, aimed at women, are actually attractive enough to wear as jewelry.
At present, the company offers three styles of bracelets that hide a sensing device that monitors fitness-related parameters such as heart rate, the number of steps walked, distance traveled, calories burned and total active time. In addition, should the wearer find herself in an emergency situation, she can simply tap her bracelet to send a distress signal to a predetermined list of contacts, along with information about her location.
What makes these products unique is the material used and their stylish look. No cheap plastic here. The three styles, collectively dubbed the Socialite Collection, are all made of brass, plated in 18-karat gold or rhodium. The bracelets connect to your phone, giving the wearer more options.
Prior to launching WiseWear in 2013, Wilmink worked first as a research associate with the National Academy of Sciences, in which capacity he founded and led the first terahertz (Thz)-sensing lab for the Defense Department. The lab co-developed the first THz spectrometer to assess skin burn injuries in battlefield situations. (Terahertz radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, between microwaves and infrared light waves, but the technology to detect or use its power was practically nonexistent at the time.)
We met with Dr. Wilmink at his company’s headquarters on the North Side, where at least 10 biomedical and electrical engineers are busy developing health-related tech devices.
What brought you to San Antonio?
When I got my Ph.D., I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. So I was exploring research positions and received the National Academy of Sciences postdoctoral research fellowship to start a new lab for the Department of Defense — the Terahertz Biosensing Laboratory. That was located at Brooks City Base here.
What motivated you to start WiseWear?
The inspiration was my grandfather Dominic Cameratta. I was raised by him and my mother. He suffered from a condition called Lewy Body Dementia, which is a cross between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. His symptoms included memory issues and changes in gait and balance issues. In 2010, he got up in the middle of the night, lost his balance and fell. He passed away the day after Christmas that year.
Before passing, however, he asked me, “When are you going to start that medical device business that you’ve been talking about since graduate school?”
I have always wanted to create devices that help people, and that’s why I pursued biomedical engineering. However, in the research environment I never felt like I was making a real impact in helping people. His death was the beginning of this whole idea. Our first product was a hearing aid that had three elements – it functioned as a hearing aid but also had sensors that detected dehydration and the ability to tell seniors that they were in danger of falling down. It was the first preventive way to prevent older people’s falls. That product requires FDA approval, and it’s still in production.
Along the way we patented an antenna system that allows us to transmit Bluetooth within the confines of a metal medical device. Previous wearables were made of plastic because it’s easy to transmit Bluetooth signals to a smart phone through plastic. We patented a system that allows us to transmit these signals through metal. This breakthrough was the foundation of our business. Women don’t want to wear plastic; they want to wear real jewelry.
That’s a huge leap forward for wearables.
Our selection of metal is genius on a number of levels. First, our system allows us to transmit Bluetooth signals 10 times further than normal Bluetooth, which is a big deal. Second, metals exhibit an oligodynamic effect, which means they are antimicrobial; they don’t carry bacteria like plastic, so there will be no skin rashes and things like that. And they are water-resistant (safe for showers, sweat and any weather conditions.) And here is a cool thing: Our products are mix-and-match. We call it “the beauty and the brain.” (He proceeds to demonstrate how the bracelet can be separated into the top “beauty” part and the lower “brain” part and how the same brain part may be recombined with a different top for a different look.)
Who designed the styles of the Socialite Collection?
We believe that form, function and fashion truly intersect in our products. We are partnering with some leading designers from New York City. Our first designer was Lee Chen, who served as a chief operating officer at Ippolita and also worked for Swatch and Tom Hardy. She is now on our board. She and her team flew in from New York, and we designed the collection together. And we have plans to do other collections with other designers as well.
Are the bracelets available for sale, and if so, where?
Through our website (wisewear.com), and soon from some major retailers, but we can’t discuss their names at this time.
On your website I saw a product called Evolve. What is it?
There are five products in production here. The bracelets are the first to hit the market. Evolve is a health and fitness monitoring device for professional sports players and fitness enthusiasts. It’s not a jewelry-type product.
You are often invited to speak at various conferences such as TEDMED and SXSW. What do you talk about?
I am invited to speak on a variety of topics — technology, entrepreneurship, innovation and about how we developed our products. I’ve probably given a few hundred talks by now and published 60-plus papers on sensor technology and engineering. I also have 10 pending patents worldwide. I was a pretty big nerd before I chose this (current) route. I ran a research lab, so I published a lot of papers about our research. I also served as a program manager for the Department of Defense SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research program) and in that capacity helped businesses develop innovative sensing products.
What is your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
My main advice is, if you are starting a business, don’t do it to get rich. If you want that, become a hedge fund manager! My advice is, find the sweet spot … If you have a passion for something and you have the right skills, start the business because you can have a positive impact on the world. (He draws three circles on the board to represent passion, skills and impact, explaining that the sweet spot is where those three partially overlap.) If you can get to the intersection of these three things, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s my best advice for someone who wants to start a business.
Booth Location(s): Sands, Halls A-C – 73208 (Health & Wellness Marketplace) & Venetian Ballroom - BT55
Digital Health Summit at CES 2016 – WiseWear’s Invited Talk
Welcome! First and foremost, we are beyond thrilled to launch our blog so you can get know WiseWear on a more personal level. After all, we’d like to think of ourselves as more than just a tech company… but rather, a resource in the community that touches on health, fashion, technology, and more. Our blog will feature a variety of content, ranging from advice on how to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle to exclusive, behind-the-scenes coverage.
We’d like to dedicate our first blog post to the basics – get to know us!
WHO: WiseWear is a fashion tech hybrid company that creates luxury wearables. While we specialize in advanced sensing technologies, we also have a strong focus on fashion, design, and aesthetics – simply put, making things truly wearable. Our experienced team consists of top engineers and scientists, hailing from Caltech, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, and the University of Texas, whose backgrounds include biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and applied physics. We also collaborate closely with fashion designers, who have consulted for reputable brands such as Coach, Swatch, Rachel Zoe, and Alexis Bittar.
A few of our team members, including (L to R): David Elam, Bennett Ibey, Brian Anderson, Jerry Wilmink, Ron Barnes, Jason Wilson, Jordan Ramirez, Ed Leahey.
WHAT: We recently launched our first line of luxury smart jewelry called the Socialite Collection (get it here, for an exclusive pre-order price of $299.95). This line consists of three smart bracelet designs, including the Calder, the Duchess, and the Kingston. The bracelets are fully integrated with advanced features such as activity tracking, mobile notifications, and distress messaging. Each bracelet is made of brass and plated in precious metals such as gold and palladium. Such brass material allows the bracelets to be water-resistant, antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and considerably more durable than other wearables currently offered in the market. We have plans to continue collaborating with top fashion brands & designers to offer more styles, as well as upcoming product lines that will appeal to both men and women.
The three styles of our Socialite Collection, including (L to R): the Calder, the Kingston, the Duchess.
WHERE: Our headquarters are located in the heart of the San Antonio medical district. We also have an office in Austin.
A typical day at our in-house research & development lab, testing sensing and antenna technology.
WHEN: It all began in September 2013 when Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Wilmink founded the company out of his San Antonio garage.
WHY: Health is important to us – it’s the root of all things. Without it, we can’t fuel forward to think, create, and make the world a better place. Dr. Wilmink founded WiseWear on the belief that healthy lifestyles should be easy to achieve and maintain with the ease of technology. That is, technology that is truly wearable and desired to be worn on a day-to-day basis. Our goal is to make healthy a habit so consumers can better understand their bodies, monitor their health & wellness, and ultimately, live a balanced lifestyle. Beyond technology, fashion and design also play a crucial role in the creative ingenuity behind our products. We strive to create wearables that serve a true purpose, without sacrificing style.
So what now? Visit us often and be on the lookout for exciting new content published on a weekly basis. Stay in the loop as we roll out new features, styles, designs, and product updates. And don’t be shy! We’re always happy to hear your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.
Do what you love.
Ph.D.-turned-entrepreneur Gerald “Jerry” J. Wilmink is the founder and CEO of WiseWear Corporation, a Texas-based digital health company that develops wearable technology products for fitness and medical applications. Every piece in its flagship line of “smart” luxury jewelry comes with distress messaging, mobile notifications, and detailed health and wellness activity tracking. The company holds seven patents and 10 trademarks and recently closed a $2.5 million investment round.
A biomedical engineer and self-described “mad scientist,” Wilmink also has experience as an inventor, startup business consultant for venture capital firms, and program manager for the Department of Defense’s $2 billion Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. In 2015, Wilmink was selected for San Antonio Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list. He learned how to be bold early in life, as he explains below.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got?
At a very young age, my mother gave me the best career advice: “When you do what you love, you never have to work a day in your life.”
My mom is my role model. At age 33, she went to college. Going to college is not a big deal to many families, but to our family this was huge news. My mom was the first person in our family to go to college. After earning her undergraduate degree, my mother then actively pursued her next dream. She enrolled in law school for night classes. To this day, I still have vivid memories of watching my mother and her college classmates preparing for law school exams. After finishing law school she proceeded to work at a mid-size law firm for a short period. She then moved on to her next dream: opening up her own law firm. Many people discouraged her from doing so, but she had an entrepreneurial dream, and she went for it.
Watching her through the eyes of a child gave me the courage to follow my own passions.
What was your biggest mistake to date, and what did it teach you?
The biggest mistake I have made is hiring people who did not fit the “SWAN” mold. SWANs are:
- Smart: You need to hire smart people who are hungry to learn new things.
- Works hard: You need to hire people who have grit and an “engine” to work hard. Startup founders and early employees put in insane work weeks, sometimes exceeding 90 hours a week.
- Ambitious: You need to hire people who are devoted and make sure their interests are the same as the organization.
- Nice: You need to hire people who are optimistic, know how to have fun and are nice. Startup founders and employees spend a ton of time together, and you want to have fun while you crush it at work.
What advice would you pass on to aspiring entrepreneurs?
To be best prepared for the “roller coaster” of startup life, I strongly recommend starting a business where your passion, domain expertise, and ability to make meaning in the world all intersect. To quote a conversationbetween Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, in startups “you only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.” So I would also suggest that anyone launching a business try to get enough sleep!
Jerry Wilmink is a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs, which has partnered with MONEY.com to help produce this series.
A close friend of mine recently asked me why we did not add optical based heart rate sensors to The Socialite Collection - www.wisewear.com. Given that both our CTO and I both have PhDs in Biomedical Optics, we explored this avenue. The truth is that after conducting extensive research tests, we found it is incredibly difficult to use optical sensors for accurate heart rate measurements from the wrist. Wrist worn wearables can provide accurate measurements of resting heart rate; however, the good old EKG-based chest strap is the only way to go for intense workouts. For those of you interested in staying in the orange zone during HIIT-like workouts, I recommend you stick with the EKG-based chest strap.
The Good news is that wrist worn wearables can provide an accurate measure of resting heart rate.
Several other recent studies also support these findings.