The sad truth is staying safe and being cool don’t often go hand in hand, says Jeremy Wall. The avid cyclist says he quickly tired of having to don a bright orange reflective construction vest just to be safe on the road. “It made me feel like a traffic cone,” Wall admits. Not exactly a fashion-forward look, but a necessity when you consider that in 2013 alone 743 cyclists were killed and another 48,000 injured in the U.S., according to Wall.
Still, Wall believed there had to be a way to travel both in safety and style. That feeling was part of what prompted him to launch wearable tech startup Lumenus. The company has created a fashionable line of connected vests, jackets and backpacks featuring “smart lights” embedded in the fabric to help keep cyclists, runners and others visible in low-light situations.
Users can program their destination into the companion app before a ride or run, and then put away their phones and focus on the journey, Wall says. Along the way, the Lumenus gear will interact with the environment: automatically flashing through intersections, engaging turn signal lights, etc. By using the same color-coding as vehicle lights, Wall says, the apparel helps to cut down confusion. “As a cyclists, I would often try to use hand signals when turning, but no one really knows what those mean,” he adds. “Just by making these very simple visual lights that we’re already used to, it evens the playing field for everyone out there.”
In addition, the garments harvest data on pace, speed and location – giving simple visual cues, if you program the app to allow them. “You don’t need a full screen or a map to show you how to make a turn,” Wall says. “A little light on your cuffs can give you turn-by-turn notifications.” For training purposes, you can program the app to help you achieve, say, an eight-minute mile. The cuff light will stay green if you’re in the right zone, drop to yellow if you’re lagging and up to red if you’re over-exerting yourself. “People love the training features,” Wall says. “It was really a pain point for people, when they don’t know their current pace on a run, but many don’t like using an app that interrupts their music every half-mile with updates.”
During a pre-order period, Lumenus sold 50,000 backpacks and garments, which the company expects to begin shipping in late summer. The backpacks costs around $200 and the outerwear ranges from $225 to $350. Eventually, the company hopes to expand beyond its four core products, adding items like bike jerseys, stretch knitwear and high-end motorcycle leathers into the product mix, Wall says.
Below is a video explaining the company's philosophy: