File this under "wearables that don't look like activity bands or men's watches." What if your golden bangle or pendant could get a buzz when someone needed you?
Cuff founder Deepa Sood, former VP of product development at Restoration Hardware, created her company to develop a line of jewelry and accessories that would work interchangeably with a pop-out Bluetooth device. The product line, available for pre-order today but not shipping until the later part of this year, feels more like custom fashion than anything resembling a Pebble.
Unlike other would-be wearable jewelry like Zazzi or Netatmo June, Cuff jewelry has an interchangeable module called CuffLinc that pops into a variety of designs. You could wear it in a pendant, a bracelet, keychain, or any other accessory designed to hold it. That's not a bad idea, especially since it means you don't have to be wedded to a particular fashion. The devices aren't incredibly expensive, either, all things considered: prices on the website range from $50 to $150 depending on design, with the CuffLinc included (a $30 device, according to the preorder page).
As for what Cuff does, think "safety alert" rather than Fitbit clone. These devices won't work as fitness tech, unlike most wearables: instead, Sood explained during a briefing over Skype, they'll be used to connect to a network of friends to get pings from loved ones. Squeezing a piece of Cuff jewelry pings everyone else you know who wears a Cuff, vibrates their Cuff, and shows them your exact location on their phone. It could be a high-end panic button, or just a way to tell someone where to meet for lunch. Other features could be added down the line, but for now the "smart" part of Cuff sounds pretty simple. The CuffLinc device, which looks like a little slab, pairs with a smartphone, like most wearables. That means you'd still need a cell signal for it to work. The CuffLinc works on Bluetooth 4.0-equipped iOS devices, is waterproof, and has a battery that will last a year.
The longer-term goal is to loop in other fashion designers and accessory makers to develop Cuff-compatible products. While smart jewelry still feels like a stretch, taking a tech product and enabling non-tech designers to incorporate the idea is a smart concept: maybe this is how watch makers could eventually develop smart products, too.
After a CES that featured more jewelry-like products like the UV-sensing Netatmo June, this is either a legitimate next wave for wearable tech, or an overreach for a field that hasn't found its footing yet. Like most wearable start-ups, there's no way to tell yet.