Even though Wearables are touted to be the next big thing after smartphones, a major challenge they face is that they lose their allure very soon. A recent Gartner survey noted that “the abandonment rate of smartwatches is 29%, and it’s 30% for fitness trackers, because people do not find them useful, they get bored of them, or they break.” Clearly, to offer a compelling enough value proposition that goes beyond the novelty factor, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide. “Wearable makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification,” the Gartner report added. This is precisely what the brother-sister duo of Arnav Kishore and Aayushi Kishore had in mind when, two years ago, they started working on wearables that can engage users. Their Noida-based company, Boltt Sports Technologies, of which Arnav Kishore is founder and CEO and Aayushi Kishore is co-founder and CMO—recently launched an artificial intelligence ecosystem bundled with hardware. It includes a ‘stride sensor’ that can be fitted on any shoe, making it a smart shoe; fitness trackers or smart bands; and an AI-enabled coach named ‘B’ that gives you real-time fitness updates via a mobile app. Soon, Boltt will also launch smart, or connected, shoes that track your fitness levels as you run, play or walk.
The company has launched a pre-order campaign on its website and is offering fitness trackers starting at Rs 1,359 and stride sensor for Rs 1,999. These come with a health assistant subscription of a minimum of three months. Its connected shoes, which will be launched in October, will be available with a personal voice coach subscription for 12 months and will have a starting price of under Rs 5,000. “Post this pre-order campaign, which runs until August 5, all our products would also be available for purchase on e-commerce portals such as Amazon,” says Aayushi Kishore.
But what makes these wearables different from the ones already available in the market? “Our uniqueness lies in the fact that we provide mentoring to a wide range of audience, from fitness enthusiasts to anybody just wanting to stay fit,” she says. For example, the AI-enabled fitness coach ‘B’, which resides in the app as a text and voice coach, comes to life when any of the devices (fitness tracker, stride sensor or smart shoe) gets connected with the app—it then provides voice inputs such as “You’re running slow, you can go fast” or “Slow down, your ground impact is too high” … and so on.
“Unlike a human coach where, due to paucity of time, mentoring is restricted, ‘B’ is available 24×7. It mentors you like a human coach, guides like a trainer and motivates like a friend,” Aayushi adds. In fact, during the development phase, Boltt conducted trials with these devices on a number of people, including its employees, and found that real-time mentoring helps make fitness a habit, rather than compulsion, by coaching a user on sleep, nutrition, activities and running. The fitness coach right now is only iOS-compatible, but “very soon we will launch the app on Android too,” Aayushi Kishore says.
Boltt is cautiously optimistic about success. Aayushi says that with an increased focus on health and fitness, people are looking to move beyond mere data points and are seeking active mentoring that can help them maintain their fitness routine. “People want fitness products that are affordable and help fitness enthusiasts with comprehensive mentoring. That, however, was not happening through the existing products in the market, which are more or less limited to either one service domain or just data. We’re glad we’ll be able to break that monotony through our products,” she adds.
This differentiation, and the fact that most of the traction in the wearable market is happening in the entry-level segment which includes devices below $50 (about Rs 3,000)—this segment accounted for 78.6% of all wearables shipped in India in the first quarter of 2017—could give Boltt the start it is looking for. The company, which brands itself as the ‘future of wearables’, doesn’t want to limit itself to the Indian market. In times to come, it would look at global markets too, beginning with the Asia-Pacific and Middle-East.