Hong Kong start-ups target athletes with new wearables

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 September, 2016, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 September, 2016, 8:54pm

Weekend warriors and sports coaches are the target markets for two Hong Kong start-ups developing sports wearables designed to optimise performance by keeping athletes warm with heated shirts and allowing swimmers to track their progress in the water.

Clim8 combines tiny sensors and a detachable battery back into the thermal layer worn by athletes, skiers or recreational joggers alike to keep them warm in cool weather and boost performance.

A second company, Platysens, is set to launch a wearable for swimmers using GPS and bone conduction technology to give audio directions or coaching tips.

Clim8 chief executive officer Florian Miguet said the shirt, which will retail between US$140 to US$200, is designed for everyone from those who take their outdoor sporting hobbies seriously to those who work outside such as ski instructors and golf coaches, or even workers on the tarmac at airports.

“It’s a shirt which is able to keep you at the optimum temperature, whatever the weather conditions outside and whatever the activity you are doing,” Miguet said.

Clim8 recently participated in the Wearable IoT World US-Pan Asia IoT Superhighway accelerator at Cyberport and the company said its shirt will be tested by outdoor professionals and the military in October.

Research firm International Data Corporation expects 213.6 million wearables will be shipped in 2020, up from an expected 101.9 million units this year. IDC predicts 7.3 per cent of wearables units shipped in 2020 will be smart clothing.

Miguet, who previously represented European outdoor brands in Asia, said current technology and sensor size now makes it possible to integrate small trackers into textiles without making the clothing uncomfortable.

Each Clim8 shirt contains between two and six sensors with a heating element on the chest for men or on the stomach for women.

Clim8 will focus on South Korea as its first market as the outdoor apparel market there is larger than even Germany and consumers embrace news brands and technology, Miguet said.

Platysens’ device, called Marlin, is made up of two pieces. The main unit is designed to be attached to the strap of a swimmer’s goggles and to sit at the back of their head with the bone conduction piece clipped to the goggle strap above the ear.

Wong Cheong-yui, chief executive of Platysens, said GPS watches currently on the market are unsuitable for open water swimmers as GPS doesn’t work under water. Placing the Marlin tracker on the top of a swimmer’s head avoids this issue, Wong explained.

The device, which will retail for US$150, can also be used in a swimming pool where it will tell the swimmer their times for each lap and keep track of the swim to display on its app.

“If you’re doing a 1,500m time trial, you want to swim fast so don’t want to look at your watch because it will slow you down,” Wong, who studied electrical engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said.

“With this device there will be a voice telling you on every lap whether you are slower or faster.”

Platysens recently raised US$37,000 through a Kickstarter campaign for its Marlin device, which will be shipped at the end of the year.

The Marlin can also be combined with coaching programmes by Swim Smooth for a virtual coach or allow coaches to track their students from the side of the pool on an iPad, Wong said.

Platysens is working on a second wearable named Seal worn on the fingers to measure the force and angle of a swimmer’s stroke to help improve technique.