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Why the Amiigo bracelet is better than the Nike Fuelband and Fitbit Flex..

Why the Amiigo bracelet is better than the Nike Fuelband and Fitbit Flex..

When it comes to fitness oriented bracelets, most people think about the Nike FuelBand, Fitbit Flex, BodyMedia’s Core 2, but what aboutAmiigo? Although the Amiigo bracelet is not commercially available yet, this is by far the most advanced fitness oriented bracelet out there. Here is why…

1. It can recognize 100+ activities: The problem with competing fitness oriented bracelets like Fitbit Flex or the Nike FuelBand is that they are fairly limited in terms of activities they can track. In fact, they can only track the number of steps, the number of calories burned.. The Amiigo bracelet, using gesture recognition technology, combined with a shoe clip, can track and recognize 100+ activities such as cycling, swimming, golfing, jogging, squats, push ups, or bicep curls. Of note, like many other competing products, the Amiigo bracelet can also track skin temperature, blood oxygen levels or hear rate.

2. It can generate personalized workouts to users over time: To me, this is where the Amiigo bracelet stands out from the crowd. The biggest problem with the Nike FuelBand or Fitibit Flex is that those devices are not “smart”, in other words they are unable to analyze activities and provide meaningful feedback to users. The Amiigo bracelet is unique as it uses smart algorithms and is capable of learning and analyzing the user’s activity, and comparing such data with friends or even professional althetes.

“We’re building a feature where the user can actually record different types of running in a practice session, and then see how/where those are turning up during competition or performance. Additionally, by using activity recognition data from friends and/or standardized references, a user can get feedback on how closely his/her ‘run’ resembles that of a friend or some professional athlete. It can be used as a powerful learning tool.” – Dave Scott, one of the four Amiigo cofounders.

3. It rewards users for achieving goals, participating in challenges:This is another key differentiator for Amiigo. Personally I am a big believer in gamification and strongly believe that mobile loyalty rewards on fitness oriented bracelets like Amiigo or other wearable computing devices like connected glasses will be a key success factor. In the case of Amiigo, It makes total sense to reward users for achieving goals or participating in challenges. I also think that it is equally important to reward users with health related promotions. For instance, Amiigo could forge partnerships with organic stores like Wholefoods so that Amiigo users can receive coupons or promotions on select items while doing their groceries at Wholefoods.

Of note, Amiigo already raised funding from both crowdfunding on indiegogo ($580K) and a UAE based VC called Alpha investment. The bracelet can be pre-ordered for $99. The device communicate with other devices like smartphones via bluetooth. Amiigo already built an android and iOS companion app in order to sync and share data (e.g. stats) with other devices like smartphones. But most importantly, Amiigo has already made an SDK available for developer community so that devs can create their own apps and tools to make the experience better over time.

Bottom line: If worked as advertised, the Amiigo bracelet has all the key ingredients (precise activity tracking – smart algorithms – gamification – personalized recommendations – SDK to attract devs) to success. It will also be important for Amiigo to forge strategic partnerships with health/organic oriented companies (Wholefoods, Vitamin stores, etc.) as part of its loyalty reward program. Forging distribution deals with big box retailers like Best Buy or Apple will also be critical in order to drive mass adoption. But most importantly, leveraging the creativity of developers in order to build innovative apps and continue to add new functionalities to the Amiigo bracelet will also be critical.

Lastly, like many Kickstarter or Indiegogo projects, it will be interesting to see wether or not Amiigo can scale quickly. However, the fact that Amiigo already raised funding from a VC is a good step in the right direction. Granted, Amiigo most likely won’t need to raise $200M like Jawbone, but it will likely need to raise additional funding over time in order to build a solid business and scale.

Watch the video on Amiigo:

Plantiga: Smart Footwear and the Future of Smart Shoe Technology

Plantiga: Smart Footwear and the Future of Smart Shoe Technology

Quin Sandler is the CEO of Plantiga, an innovative startup from Vancouver, who is currently developing a smart shoe which could revolutionize the footwear industry. In this post, Quin explained his vision of Plantiga and the kind of applications that could be used for the Plantiga smart shoe over time. 

Plantiga: Smart Footwear & The Future of Smart Shoe Technology

By Quin Sandler

Introduction & Background

Plantiga committed to re-thinking and re-engineering footwear several years back. But not just the shoe itself and how it could benefit people’s lives with more comfort, control and performance, but we desired to develop footwear as a digital interface between the person and her world. That process resulted in our team fundamentally changing footwear with a novel design and approach – although we’ve kept the look the same.

Not only have we advanced footwear mechanically, we have designed the shoes to ship with embedded sensors for the purpose of generating a stream of real-time movement data (weight distribution) that can feed into different apps for a variety of purposes – similar to the data output that comes from force plates.

Our aim is to develop a new type of footwear company comprised of both hardware and software – an eco-system of technology products and services which will be adapted to various markets.

One goal is to build out our own SDK, allowing developers to build their own apps utilizing our platform. Included in this, our working with other API’s.

Major Applications & Uses Cases

The footwear is both mechanical and comes with instrumentation. The analytic engine that reads and interprets the data output is the basis of our software. We see the footwear + software system impacting 4 key areas: health, sport, security and social. Within each area we see a multitude of applications, but we know there are many we haven’t even thought of.

We wanted to take a second to write down a use case in each area, and welcome any input on other use cases. Within all of the apps, the UX will show timelines, graphs and maps. The apps will be able to set goals as well as enact biofeedback devices and all can integrate with social services. The user will decide what information is uploaded to their on-line profile, what information is kept private and what information is shared with their peeps.

Health Activity Apps:

Our feet connect us to the ground. They are the fundamental beginning of our kinetic chain and we see them as an untapped resource of data.

Utilizing weight distribution and pressure mapping (from heel down to toe off), our health apps will focus on:

  • · balance
  • · postural assessments
  • · fatigue
  • · activity breakdown (running, walking, stairs up and down, etc.
  • · weight changes
  • · and more

One use case sees many levels of movement information contributing to an overall database that might be able to assess when, and how, sickness starts.

Doctors, nurses, soldiers, and others, are in jobs where being tired is normal, but where fatigue costs lives. There needs to be a tool that might ubiquitously assess an individual’s fatigue level. If somebody is below a pre-set threshold, the health authority, or central command, can be alerted to the issue. Our platform goes a long way to improve these situations.

Sport Performance Apps

Performance tools for any sport are usually left to labs and professionals. We have a vision for a world in the not too distant future where our footwear and associated apps will be both a coach and an assessment tool. We want to bring to every user what historically has been available only to a pro athlete. Whereas the professional has ready access to high end force plates and the applicable software, our footwear + apps will substitute for this, providing many types of data:

  • real time weight transfer
  • training and assessment tools
  • daily, weekly, monthly improvement charts
  • general activity breakdown
  • isolation of different kinetic chain points (each leg, knee, hip, etc.)
  • and more

A great use case for this parametric information is in golf. Imagine a player taking a swing, then being able analyze and assess their stance and position moments after the shot was taken. This direct feedback goes a long way to improving one’s game. The same goes for putting, where how you rest on the ball of your foot will dictate how well the shot plays out.

Similar feedback loops are a valued resource in other sports such as tennis, basketball, running, soccer and more.

Security Apps

Creating a ubiquitous, mobile biometric system was been the holy grail in identity management. A lot of organizations have tried to connect a biometric to a smartphone for the purpose of enabling a mobile biometric.

It’s a fact everybody walks different. Pressure mapping patterns can identify an individual. Since Plantiga’s footwear generates a robust stream of real-time pressure mapping patterns, there is a crazy huge opportunity to use our tech as the basis of a biometric security system.

Some of the features could include:

  • always on biometric data feed
  • stamping digital and physical movements with a biometric signature (hallways passed through, documents accessed, websites visited, etc)
  • permissions and restrictions on how and when your data is used
  • time & motion sudies

Other Applications

Games

Real-world activity can be mirrored in a virtual game world. This can bring together different groups and individuals regardless of location (for example, the actual distance between players can be mirrored, and or merged – one group on the west coast and one on the east coast could be on the same playing field).

Logistics

Imagine a group of Fed-Ex employees wearing our footwear and interacting with a custom developed app. The organization would be able to track not just the packages, but the people – what they’ve done, what packages were handled, who put what on what truck, ect. This will be a key tool for the organization to keep Best Practices.

Conclusion

We are driven to change the physical definition of a shoe. We want to increase comfort, performance and control and we, literally, wish to make peoples lives better. We change how shoes are manufactured and have new ideas on how to sell them.

In our re-thinking of the whole footwear problem, we’ve worked hard to build out the adaptable shoe technology to include information. Following comfort, it’s all about data.

The wearable space is an exciting area to be in, and we count ourselves lucky to play a role.

Here is a quick video demo of the plantiga’s smart shoe:

 To learn more about Plantiga, you can visit the company’s website at www.plantiga.com or email Quin Sandler at qsandler@plantiga.com

My 2014 predictions: Another great year for the wearable computing space

My 2014 predictions: Another great year for the wearable computing space

We are just a few hours away from 2014, so it is time to reflect on what happened in 2013, and look forward to 2014. I don’t think I need to explain what I am excited about these days. In my opinion, 2013 was the confirmation that the wearable computing space is real, well alive…To quote John Sculley, co-founder of Misfit Wearables, “30 years ago, we saw a revolution with personal computing, and today we are seeing another revolution with wearable computing”.

So what happened in 2013?

  1. Emergence of wearable computing startups: In my opinion, Pebble, Misfit, Basis, Fitbit, Withings, Recon Instruments , Omate, Metawatch, Neptune Pine (Forgive me if I am forgetting one..it is highly subjectiveJ),  were among the success stories of 2013. Some of them raised money from crowfounding sites like Indiegogo or kickstarter, then raised an additional round through VCs (e.g. Pebble, Amiigo). According to reports I have seen, the average amount of money invested by VCs on wearable computing startups was about $5M. Clearly, crowdfunding sites are a blessing for wearable computing startups because it is a lot easier to get funded, and for startups who don’t want to take VC money, and keep control of the company, it is the perfect solution.
  2. Big players bought hot wearable computing startups:  In 2013, Jawbone acquired BodyMedia for $100M+, while Under Armour acquired MapmyFitness for $150M. Leading semiconductor companies like Intel, who is on a mission to disrupt the wearable computing space, made strategic investments into Recon instruments, Basis, Thalmic Labs (MYO armband), and Omek. These are just some examples. My point here is that big corporations recognize the huge growth potential in wearables. They are making big bets on who the winners will be in the space, buying their way into the wearable computing space or simply acquiring great technologies and engineering talent that they don’t have internally.
  3. The smartwatch and activity tracker space are out in front right now: Although Google glasses have become the face of wearable computing, in terms of sales and market share, smartphones and activity trackers have become the most dominant product categories in the wearable computing space.  That said, we have seen the emergence of new players in the connected glasses (e.g. Recon, Meta, Optinvent, OrCam, Telepathy, etc.)., smart clothing/footwear space (Plantiga, OMsignal..) space.

What I expect to happen in 2014:

  1. All major OEMs, software companies (Microsoft..), semiconductor companies (Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom..) will jump into the wearable computing bandwagon: Sony was the first major OEM to enter the smartwatch space. Then Samsung followed suit. That’s what Samsung does. They usually get in early, learn from their mistakes, then keep improving its products over time. Other players like Apple, Motorola/Google, LG, Nokia, Archos, Huawei, Xiaomi, ZTE..have already announced their plan or are rumored to enter the smartwatch and/or activity tracking space in 2014. This should not come as a surprise as it represents a new revenue opportunity for those players. It is also an opportunity for them to enforce the stickiness of their hardware ecosystem.  For Google, it is a clear statement that they are serious about making hardware, and want to extend the dominance of Android in the wearable computing/Internet of Things space. For Intel, it is a great opportunity to establish itself as a hardware company and take share away from Samsung and Apple in the mobile devices/wearable computing space. For Microsoft, it could be a new driver for the company. They clearly need to shake things up..they missed the boat in the smartphones and tablet space, so wearable computing could mark the beginning of a new era for the giant software company. Plus they can leverage Nokia’s mobile devices business to build exciting wearable products.
  2. Emergence of wearable 2.0 services/devices: To me this is critical. I used the Basis watch and Fitbit. Although these are great devices, these devices are still not smart enough. What I want as a user is a device that can not only track all my activities but is also able to give me meaningful insights on my health via a smart algorithm. Basically I want to know if I am getting sick, pushing myself to the limit..I am advising a great startup focusing on this particular field, so I can tell you that this is coming. The only question is whether activity tracking vendors will build this in house or partner with a third party company to do so. Vendors who fail to make their devices smarter.
  3. BYOWD (Bring Your own Wearable Devices) trend becomes the norm in enterprise: With more and more users expected to carry wearable computing devices (e.g. activity trackers..), I expect to see an increasing number of IT managers in the enterprise space embracing those types of devices. That said, protecting users’ health data will be key. We could also imagine a scenario where a company will pay for the data plan of a 3G smartwatch used by a worker for personal and professional use. Some companies might also work with insurance companies to enable their workers to pay less for their health insurance as long as they exercise more, eat healthier, etc.
  4. Emergence of competing wearable computing app stores and ecosystem: Pebble is set to launch its own app store in 2014. I expect others to follow suit. With that in mind, we will likely see the emergence of competing app stores from smartwatches vendors, connected glasses vendors, activity tracker vendors, or even smart clothing companies. Devs will need to pick and choose the winners in the space as they have limited resources.
  5. Devs becoming the new battlefield: I expect to see lots of competition among vendors to attract some of the best devs in the market. Wearable computing companies need the support of devs to create great contextual apps. Some players will pay them to create apps for their platform. I am looking at you MicrosoftJ Having an open AI policy will be key here as well.
  6. Contextual apps, AI, and smart algorithms become a must have in the wearable computing space. In my opinion, these are key elements to create a great experience on wearable computing devices. Google, with Google Now is likely to play a key role here, enabling many devices to create AI centric experiences on wearables. But Google Now is not the only solution to enable a great AI experience. I also expect players to focus on creating contextual apps leveraging sensors, accelerometers. Native apps will become the norm here as it is just a better way to truly leverage sensors, accelerometers, and create the best user experience.
  7. Software oriented wearable computing startups emerge: I am seeing a lot more software oriented wearable computing startups these days. It is a smart move because it allows these startups to scale much faster and leverage the myriad of wearable computing devices out there. I expect to see an increasing number of software startups emerging  in that space in 2014.
  8. Emergence of sub-segments in the wearable computing space, with differentiation at the core: Take the connected glasses space as an example, we are already seeing sub-segments emerging today. Those include gaming/AR oriented glasses (Meta, Occulus), notification oriented glasses (Google glasses, GlassUP), sports oriented glasses (Recon Instruments), B2B/enterprise oriented glasses (Morotola HC1),  disability oriented glasses (OrCam). I expect to see sub-segments emerging in the smartwatch market, fitness oriented bracelet, sports space. In fact, it is already happening today, so it will likely accelerate in 2014.
  9. Smart clothing/footwear ready for primetime: This is a very promising space. This is also a huge market. I am currently advising a great Canadian startup called Plantiga which is set to revolutionize the smart footwear space. OMsignal is another company to keep an eye on. They are very ambitious and have a great vision. I expect to see some of those companies partnering with big players in the medical, clothing, retail, and sports field in 2014.
  10. Hot wearable computing startups become M&A targets. This is quite obvious, but I expect to see an acceleration of M&As in 2014. Big corporations will buy their way into the space in 2014. Companies like Microsoft, Google, major OEMs (Samsung..), will likely be top buyers in 2014.  Some hot wearable computing startups might start thinking about becoming public companies in the years to come. I am looking at you Pebble.
  11. Enterprise oriented wearable computing space gain traction. I expect to see big companies in the enterprise space embracing enterprise oriented wearable computing devices and services in 2014. Why? Because it can really help them improve productivity, solve real problems, save money and drive their top line.
  12. Strong competition coming from low cost Chinese vendors, putting pressure on leading players. Like in the smartphone and tablet market, Chinese vendors will be very aggressive, coming up with low cost devices (e.g. smartphones, glasses, activity trackers..). But these devices will lack in terms of quality. It will put pressure on existing players and drive price competition. That said, you will see various segment emerging: Low end, mid end and high end. The fact that Archos – although not a Chinese vendor – is set to introduce a sub $50 wearable computing device at CES, is an illustration of this.
  13. Low power devices to become a must have. Battery life has become a big problem for many wearable computing devices. It is just too big to ignore and deteriorate the user experience tremendously. So expect to see lots of innovation in this space in 2014.  You will see various approaches: low power chips, low power flexible batteries, kinetic and solar power approaches.
  14. Carriers embracing 3G/4G enabled wearable computing devices. Carriers do not want to become a dump pipe, so expect carriers to embrace 3G/4G wearable computing devices by including those devices as part of their shared data plan offering. It will be a nice way for them to reduce the churn, and drive their top line. Trust me, this is coming!
  15. Connected car vendors to partner with wearable computing companies in order to improve the driving experience. Mercedes Benz already showcased examples of how Pebble and Google glasses could be embedded into its cars. Others like Nissan introduced their own smartwatch. I expect to see more connected car vendors jumping into the bandwagon in 2014 as a way to improve the driving experience and better monetize infotainment services.
  16. Google will have no choice but to significantly cut the price of the google glasses. What will be the retail price of the Google glasses when Google officially releases the google glasses to the masses? This is the one million dollar question. We see conflicting reports emerging on a regular basis about this. Ultimately, I think that Google will have no choice but to significantly cut the price of the google glasses to help the google glasses gain mass adoption. $500-600 would be an idea price point. Recon Instruments, which is selling its glasses in this price range, seems to have gained good traction. Plus Google can offset any potential losses on the hardware through advertising revenue.
  17. Apple will set the bar in terms of UE/UI in the smartwatch space: I expect Apple to release the iWatch in 2014, probably September 2014 right in time for the holidays..and once Apple gets a chance to see competing products. They are not in a rush to release their product. They just want to get it right..and launch when the market is ready. Apple has the install base already. They can push their product to their millions of iOS customers. They can also leverage their strong distribution (Apple store, Apple.com). Let’s face it they are already selling a myriad of wearable computing devices (Misfit, Jawbone..) in their stores. Tim Cook understands this business as he is in the board of Nike. They are already laying the foundations/architecture by pushing iBeacon on their devices (iPhones..) and are expected to have 250M ibeacon customers by 2014. Through their wearable computing product embedded with iBeacon/bluetooth LE you can imagine a scenario where users will be able to control control appliances, AC, light, services in their house..pay for their groceries at POS..Open the trunk of their car, and control the dashboard in their car..whether it is music, lights, windows. .they should also be able to get indoor mapping while shopping at the mall..this will enable new use cases and revenue opportunities for Apple. At the end of the day this new wearable device (e.g iWatch) will help Apple grow its top line, reinforce its HW ecosystem, increase the stickiness of its offerings, reduce churn..and drive the stock. But most importantly it will appease Wall Street.. From a competitive landscape standpoint, I believe that Apple will set the bar in terms of UE/UI. This will likely force competitors to go back to the drawing board. However, Apple’s entry into the wearable computing space will also benefit competitors, especially the ones focusing on the low end of the smartwatch market or who have a differentiated approach (3G/4G emabled smartphones, AI centric smartwatches..).

Bottom line: 2014 is set to be an exciting year for the wearable computing space.  We will see new types of experiences, devices, and new players, emerging in the space. Privacy and battery life will remain key issues. Some startups will shut down, run out of money, get acquired, others will take the lead, and even disrupt the dominance of big players like Apple and Samsung. This space is so diverse, unpredictable, innovative..and that’s why I want to play a role in it.