As IPOdesktop's founder, Francis Gaskins, I am also a runner who has completed four marathons and numerous 10K's. As a result, I am interested in running safety apparel and what can be done to protect runners at night. This is an area that's part of the global sports apparel market, expected to reach US$125 billion in 2017 with a CAGR of 6% over the next five years.
There are thousands of runners' casualties and pedestrian accidents with automobiles each year totaling almost 5,000 annually. It's often hard to see joggers in the twilight or in the wee hours of the morning.
I've noticed over the years that there's no real safety apparel or wearable safety technology for runners or nighttime walkers other than the traditional reflective tapes from companies like 3M (MMM).
However, the wearable tech market appears to be on the upswing. "In four years, the market for these (wearable) devices is expected to hit a minimum of $6 billion," according to IMS Research.
And even though IMS Research reported that the wearable technology market is expected to grow, most of the products revolve around the wellness/healthcare sector (heart and glucose monitors). Few seem to be in development to keep runners safe and help them "lighten up" so they're more conspicuous to drivers.
Reflective tapes only work when illuminated by a light source (headlights). Research has lead me to an apparently new category in the apparel/textile sector - referred to as active illumination technologies, where the product generates its own light and can be seen by drivers from almost 1,000 feet away.
With companies like Nike (NKE), Adidas (OTCPK:ADDDF), New Balance, Microsoft (MSFT), and Apple (AAPL) all showing interest in active illumination technologies and products, this may be an interesting sector to watch.
Coincidentally, on a recent trip to Disneyland (DIS) I noticed some sort of active illumination technology being used to light up costumes.
Disney also used that technology in its movie "Tron Legacy". Turns out that technology was provided by Dallas-based Oryon Technologies (ORYN). The company's illumination technology apparently also has been used as the keypad light source in over 125 million cell phones.
Powered by a small battery pack, Oryon Technologies' active illumination lamps can be sewn onto any fabric and is flexible, crushable, thin, lightweight, pliable, and water resistant. As such, it's perfect for running and bike safety wear, as well as jackets and vests for first responders, construction workers, police, and fire personnel.
Another 'runners/walkers' solution is also provided by North Carolina and China-based WEEL Technologies, a company that provides active illumination products as part of its line up of wearable electronics for apparel, footwear, accessories, and bags. The company's active illumination products come in many colors and can flash or stay on.
WEEL's website features a bicyclist wearing a jacket with a flashing lamp that is self powered. A night time runner or bicyclist would certainly feel safer wearing this product than slapping some reflective tape on his back.
Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have certainly invested a lot of money into technologies to assist runners and bicyclists with measuring performance, but it's questionable how much they've done to help wearers of their apparel be more visible to drivers at night.
Though reflective tape helps, it'll be interesting to see who comes out of the gate first with active illumination technologies incorporated into their apparel. And if you're a jogger and you like to run at night or in the early morning hours when it's foggy, remember- it's all about being seen- before it's too late.