Ukrainians are conquering the world with smart watches and wristbands

Ukrainians are conquering the world with smart watches and wristbands

Ukrainian inventors are trying to earn a place under the sun on the emerging market of wearable devices. The technology company Hideez Technology, Inc (USA, Ukraine) announced the start of supplies of its new device Safeband next year. It is a multifunctional smart wristband, which works as a personal security solution.

All in one

Safeband synchronizes a smartphone with any popular operating system via Bluetooth. It is sold with a set of Minitags, which you can attach to items that its owner is concerned about losing, for instance, a wallet, keys or a laptop. «Americans lose over 600,000 laptops a year, simply forgetting them somewhere,» reads the presentation of the project.

The wristband can be used as a user identifier. It turns on an active password as soon as its users leave their work place. The items on the desk at work can also be tagged. When the owner returns, he or she will receive a notification of whether or not somebody tried to use them in their absence.

Project leader Denys Zaliznyak told Capital that his team tried to unite in one wristband the different functions of other devices. «There are tags for safeguarding personal items, but they connect directly to the smartphone and do not protect the smartphone itself. There is a multitude of fitness trackers. There are wristbands for receiving notifications from the handset. There are bracelets with access keys. We managed to unite all these functions and make the wristband the central device...,» he says.

Trace of a Pocketbook

Hideez Technology is a company founded by Ukrainians. The core of the company is made up of former employees of Pocketbook known as the world manufacturer of e-books. The company’s founder Regina Serhiyenko earlier worked as the director of a daughter company of Pocketbook in the U.S. Zaliznyak adds that many specialists kept friendly relations since the time of their work at Pocketbook and now joined efforts in a new project. The central office is located in the U.S. as the team is counting on retail sales on that market. R&D and administration of the project is located in Kyiv. The Kyiv office has around 20 staff employees. «At that we additionally attract outsourcing for many tasks. A specialized company is developing the case of the device,» says the head of the project.

Half a million for the kick-off

Last week Hideez launched a crowd funding campaign for the new device on Kickstarter. The company is hoping to raise US $100,000 through crowd funding. «Appearance on Kickstarter is not only about fundraising for R&D and production. It is also a way of getting feedback about the product before it hits the mass market and this is very important for us,» emphasizes Zaliznyak. Besides the money that the company can attract through crowd funding, the team will invest another US $50,000 into the project before the start of mass production.

«A purely technical part of such products (without software) usually costs US $50,000-100,000, provided that the product is based on available technologies,» says Head of the Product Development Bureau ARTKB Oleksandr Nesterenko, who consults on Ukrainian hardware projects and helps organize production. In this case, however, there are many aspects besides the development of the product itself, such as the development of software, marketing, PR support, administration, he adds.

The results of the campaign on the Kickstarter will not affect the start of the supplies planned for March 2015 (the expected price is US $149), according to the head of the Safeband project. «The device will be manufactured at one of the largest enterprises in China. The final decision is still to be made, but it will be a plant of the same level as Foxconn and Pegatron,» he adds.

Photoshop to help

Safeband is not the only smart wristband developed by Ukrainians. This year the project Ritot, a smart wristband that would provide projection with data on notifications from a smartphone right on the hand, caused quite a stir in the gadget fans communities.

In summer, after the team of Ritot started fundraising of US $50,000 for the development of the device on the crowd funding platform Indiegogo, talks started in expert circles that Ritot was simply a well-planned scam.

In the course of the campaign the Ukrainian team continuously changed the composite of its participants and even their names. The projection technology was what raised biggest doubts. How can a picture be clearly projected on the hand, when the projector is placed at 180 degrees?

Nonetheless, by September over 8,000 backers invested a total of US $1.4 mn into the project. Such was the result of the Ritot fundraising campaign. In November, however, the Venture Capital Research Lab informed that it believed that Ritot project failed altogether and most likely will never be realized.

Backers sensed something wrong while the fundraising campaign was still under way. They notified the startup about their desire to be reimbursed their money. However, this can be done only after the end of the campaign. It is unknown whether the investors managed to get back their funds.

New beginnings

Clearly, Ritot could ‘tarnish the image’ of Ukrainian hardware startups in general. «Our wristband did not collect the required amount and its production was postponed for some time. We are working on the new design and thinking to re-launch this product in a couple of months,» Head of .klatz watch project Dmytro Honcharenko told Capital.

In autumn, his team raised only a small part of the required US $140,000 on Indiegogo. .klatz conceptually differs from the ideas realized in the smart watches Samsung or Apple, since the creators decided to use the whole band of the gadget and not only the part of it that is typically considered to be the screen. This allowed for increasing the capacity of the battery and its work without being recharged. Honcharenko, however, told Capital yesterday that their improved smartwatch would still have the classical form (a watch on a band). «We will be ready to start accepting pre-orders in two weeks. Our watch will be the second screen for such services as Google Calendar and Google Inbox,» he added.

Price or functionality?

In 2015, the volume of global supplies of smart wristbands and smart watches will reach 43.2 mn, according to forecasts of the analytical company Canalys.

Ukrainian developers of smart wristbands and watches are now trying to capture the attention of consumers mainly through functional frills and the unique form factor. However, the price is probably the most important factor for their emergence on this highly lucrative mass market. For instance, recently the Chinese company Xiaomi reported that it supplied over 1 mn Mi Band (smart band) to Chinese consumers over three months. The extremely low price of the device (a mere US $13) was probably the most important factor of the successful emergence on the market. For this small amount a user got additional functions and possibilities: sleep monitoring, an accelerometer and a battery life of 30 days.

Nonetheless, functions are also important. «The biggest competition is for the place on your hand. If the product resembles a watch people will not wear it next to their customary and dearly beloved watch. It is simply irrational to have two watches on both hands,» says Nesterenko. He says that if you make a gadget look like an accessory, a wristband, it can be worn together with watches, or fitness trackers or other wearable devices as an element of style. «Klatz and Safeband can be easily worn on one wrist. This means that they are not such major competitors. They are of different form factors and have different sets of functions,» sums up Nesterenko.

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