Make no mistake, athletic apparel specialist Under Armour (NYSE: UA ) wants you to know it's a tech company, too.
Then again, it's probably safe to say many investors have long thought of Under Armour as a world-class innovator, anyway, dating all the way back to debut of its genre-creating moisture-wicking T-shirts.
But each year, Under Armour also holds what it calls its "Future Show," where thousands of people submit and present their ideas to compete not only for cash prizes but also a contract with Under Armour.
With the winner from this year's show, Under Armour made clear its intentions of bringing wearable tech to the next level.
Meet Light Bohrd, a motion-based lighting technology that was initially created as a way to illuminate longboards, snowboards, and helmets. At the Under Armour event last weekend, however, Light Bohrd's founder demonstrated how his product can be fully embedded into Under Armour's athletic clothing.
Better yet, he also says the "ruggedized luminescent display" is machine-washable, and seamlessly powered by a tiny, embedded lithium battery that can be wirelessly charged.
For those of you keeping track, remember back in March I pointed out a curious advertisement from Under Armour that showcased the company's focus on innovation. In particular, I was intrigued because the ad contained a futuristic sports suit complete with climate control, embedded displays, and color customization. Naturally, we can't know for sure whether any of that tech even exists, but the commercial also teased viewers with the statement, "The next great athletic innovation isn't available just yet, but it's being built at Under Armour right now."
It's anyone's best guess whether Under Armour already has the whole climate-control part down, but it's safe to say they saw something they loved in Light Bohrd. After all, Light Bohrd could fulfill a number of crucial pieces involved with the actual implementation of the aforementioned athletic suit, including the design for the required power source, illumination, and potentially at least part of the color customization.
And remember, Under Armour is also simultaneously holding its Armour39 Challenge, through which contestants have until Nov. 15, 2013, to submit ideas for expanding the capabilities of the company's Armour39 biometric chest strap. As it stands, Armour39 can accurately monitor items including your heart rate, general movement, calories burned, and the overall intensity of your workout. Then, the strap can sync it with either Under Armour's Armour39 wristwatch or specialized mobile app.
Put it all together on a commercially accessible scale, and consumers could ultimately be left with one heck of a compelling suite of new wearable technology.
But this also raises the question: Is Under Armour just being lazy by outsourcing its innovation? I don't think so. In fact, I'd argue it's an admirable move by a relatively small company that knows its limits.
As Under Amour's founding CEO Kevin Plank stated on the topic, "If I had a core competency that I'd wish on this company, I'd wish it the ability to be humble enough to recognize we don't have all the ideas, and keep our eyes open to look for the next great one."
And that, my fellow Fools, is exactly the kind of attitude that makes for a successful company -- and a great investment -- over the long term.
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