The Sunshine Coast is a hot spot for entrepreneurs creating innovative start-ups that are adding value to the economy. One of those entrepreneurs is Mountain Creek resident Duncan Barker, who has caught the eye of a number of organisations that are interested in the many and varied applications of his wearable technology.
Mr Barker’s business, Near Field Creative, started off as Confirm Denied in 2016 and has evolved from a clothing brand with designs aimed at the video gaming community to a world-first commercialisation of wearable technology in the fashion industry.
“I loved the video game industry and had engaged gaming artists to create unique and eye-catching designs,” he says. “But then I asked myself how I could improve and innovate to create something truly unique.
“The idea of incorporating technology into clothing seemed like a logical step.”
Near Field Creative T-shirts feature a chip that is embedded into the fabric that can be pre-loaded with links to any content from a website link to a video, app or song.
When someone scans the chip with their smartphone, the content is immediately opened on their phone, allowing businesses to connect their customers to useful information, and bands to connect fans with their latest music video. These are just a few of the many applications this type of wearable technology can have.
Mr Barker grew up in Buderim and moved to Sydney to “do the corporate thing”, working in a range of industries from retail management to commercial real estate, operations relations and business development for large companies like Wotif, Yahoo and The Executive Centre.
“I turned down a job at Dropbox in order to pursue my passion and this start-up, and moved back to the Sunshine Coast for the lifestyle and to spend more time with my family,” he says.
“I didn’t realise it at the time, but the Sunshine Coast is perfect for start-ups and from a lifestyle point of view, it doesn’t compare to Sydney.
“There is such a push here for innovation – that’s what’s surprised me more than anything. And the support here for local start-up businesses is incredible.”
Near Field Creative has partnered with the Innovation Centre, with staff outfitted with tech-enabled uniforms that are programmed to instantly launch the company’s key information on their website as well as the Advance Queensland Hot DesQ website when people tap their smartphones against the shoulder touch point.
Innovation Centre CEO Mark Paddenburg says Mr Barker has taken up residence at the centre as a result of the partnership.
“When you meet a start-up founder like Duncan Barker – with a deep passion to research, innovate and utilise enabling technology to create better outcomes – it makes sense to invite them into our network,” he says.
Mr Barker says the centre was always on his radar as a preferred base to scale the business due to its track record of success.
“The technology supersedes QR codes and is compatible with Android, Apple and Windows smartphones and more than 80 per cent of smartphones have the technology enabled already,” he says.
“We work with Australian suppliers wherever possible and while the wearable technology is imported from overseas, the final product is assembled in Queensland.”
And if you are worried about how you would wash a T-shirt with an electronic chip inside, Mr Barker assures wearers that it has been encased in a way that makes it machine-washable and waterproof for the life of the garment, without being bulky or noticeable to the person wearing the shirt.
Mr Barker recently attended the Myriad Festival in Brisbane after being selected as one of 10 innovative businesses to represent our region. He is also in talks with a worldwide suit tailor about creating the ultimate tech-enabled business attire that is made to measure and custom programmed to suit the individual and their personal business objectives.
To find out more about the exciting realm of wearable technology, visit nearfieldcreative.com.