A smartring to rule gadgets
Startups joining wave with advantage over big companies
TOKYO — Move over, Frodo. A Japanese startup is designing a smartring to lord over other gadgets.
Trace a dollar sign in the air and pay for your coffee. Write “TV” with your finger and your television set turns on. Charge a subway fare. These are just a few of the applications envisioned by Logbar Inc., the Tokyo-based startup developing the device scheduled for release this year.
While Apple Inc. and Google Inc. are building smartwatches and eyewear that will likely sell millions of units, startups like Logbar are developing niche products. As consumers seek new ways to integrate computers into everyday life, the market for wearable technologies will jump about 14-fold in five years to $19 billion, Hampshire, England-based wireless analysis company Juniper Research estimated in October.
“Making things has become easier,” said Benjamin Joffe, a managing director at Haxlr8r, a venture fund that helps finance hardware startups and organizes boot camps in Shenzhen, China, and San Francisco. “The cost and time frame have been compressed to the point that some startups can go to market with a new product in less than a year, way before a large company.”
Logbar hasn’t accepted venture capital funding, chief executive officer Takuro Yoshida said. The company plans to offer the ring to developers from the middle of this year. Finger apps will allow users to make gestures triggering commands executed through devices such as smartphones, he said.
Yoshida, who previously built an iPad app for a bar he ran that helped patrons interact by displaying what drinks they ordered, said he wanted to create a device that fostered communication. He declined to say what the smartring will be made from or provide more details about the gadget’s apps.
“I’ve been focusing on connecting people in the real world, beyond the digital one,” Yoshida said last month. “It’s difficult to build personal connections at an application level, so I turned to hardware.”
The number of smart devices that connect and talk to each other through Wi-Fi is expected to grow to 200 billion by 2020 from 2 billion in 2006, according to Intel Corp. That growth will be fuelled by the ease with which gadgets can link up with phones and tablets through operating systems like Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, said Anand Srinivasan, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries.