Two examples of transforming value propositions by smart use of technology caught my attention this week: 3D printing of sneakers by UnderArmour and GPS-powered sneakers by EasyJet.

Under Armour Architect 3D

Under Armour is following in the footsteps of Adidas that achieved 3D-production of a sneaker with the Futurecraft 3D.  Ninety six 3D-printed pairs will be released to commemorate 1996 the year when Under Armour was founded.

3D printing is changing the way sneaker makers create their shoes. Instead of using expensive steel moulds and costly thermoplastic injection moulding, 3D printing allows to prototype shoes quickly and affordably.

When designing the trainers, Under Armour worked with over 80 athletes who tested and provided feedback on the shoes that were used in over 120 hours of testing. This scale of prototyping and design would not be possible using the traditional moulding process.

The Architect 3D – as the trainer will be named – is one of several 3D-printed models Under Armour plans to release in 2016. The company hopes to refine the 3D-printing process as it gathers feedback from consumers and will use this information to tweak future models. It also plans to expand the process to allow for on-the-fly customization by users who will be able to pick and choose designs as they create their perfect shoe.

Beyond the consumer market, Under Armour hopes to combine scanning technology with 3D printing to build a shoe crafted precisely for an athlete’s foot size and forefoot shape and arch. The future is all about customization, and 3D printing will allow t to produce personalised shoes rapidly and with minimal expense.

Always on track with Sneakairs

British airline easyJet recently unveiled the prototype for Sneakairs — footwear that directs wearers to a destination.

The Sneakairs are embedded with GPS sensors that connect to your mobile phone via Bluetooth and the easyJet mobile app. Once you input your destination into the easyJet app, the shoes will set off a variety of  vibrations to let you know which direction to turn, whether or not if you are off course, or if you have reached your destination.

The easyJet app’s navigation tools are powered by Google Maps and Google Map Directions API. The transmitter device which connects the Sneakairs with your mobile phone is placed in between the sneakers’ cushion insert and sole. The transmitter is encased in a 3D printed plastic housing to protect the device from being damaged.

The Sneakairs prototypes were tested at a recent Barcelona Street Project. The testers walked to such Barcelona landmarks as Gaudi’s Casa La Pedrera and Casa Batllo with just the Sneakairs as the guide.

The first place you will be able to get your hands on this new way of ground transportation may be in the sky. EasyJet’s marketing director Peter Duffy said the airline is currently looking at making this technology available for purchase on-board in the future.

Both cases are great examples of using technology to strengthen brands and to expanding secure market positions.

 

 

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