Guest Columnist

Column: Triangle flush with wearables

Guest columnistJanuary 20, 2014 

A friend recently asked me about a device I wear around my wrist called the Jawbone UP, an activity tracker that has brushed aluminum ends and plugs into my smartphone.

Jawbone was one of the first entrants into the market of wearables, which are devices you attach to your body that can measure things like the number of steps you take and how long you sleep. These activity trackers were soon followed by other devices, such as smartwatches and eyewear devices, most notably, Google Glass.

At this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there was an explosion of these wearables, among a host of other always-connected devices that can track anything you attach them to. Think home energy consumption, fuel economy, or the well-being of your dog.

The verdict is still out on the acceptance timeline of this tech, but there is ample evidence that this emerging smart device market is the next big wave in tech, with Google’s recent $3.2 billion acquisition of smart home device maker Nest serving as the exclamation point.

The Triangle is already flush with a number of companies making headway into what’s known as the “Internet of Things.”

Valencell in Raleigh makes the PerformTek sensor, which turns audio headsets and arm and wrist bands into health and fitness devices that track not only activity but other biometrics, including heart rate and blood flow.

“Wearable tech was undoubtedly the theme at CES and will be the focus for all of 2014, I believe,” said Steven LeBoeuf, Valencell’s co-founder and CEO. “We are benefitting from the explosion of hardware because we license our technology to partners. At CES this year we announced new products and/or partnerships with Intel, LG, Blaupunkt and Scosche.”

Durham’s Validic recently raised a $760,000 seed round led by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The company combines personalized, accurate, real-time health data from a multitude of apps and providers into a structured format for delivery to health insurance companies, physicians and employers.

“The saturated market is exactly what makes Validic stand out,” said Drew Schiller, co-founder and CTO. “We allow healthcare and preventive wellness companies to collect data from all these disparate sources and remain device agnostic.”

And Sqord, a Durham company that makes an activity tracker targeted at kids and adds a gamified and social experience to get them active, has around 14,000 wrist bands in the field today.

“Sqord started in the summer of 2011,” said co-founder and CEO Coleman Greene. “At that time, there wasn’t even a buzzword for wearables. We’re riding the momentum of the wearables market – but the community, the software, and the network is the differentiator for us and the value add for the kids.”

As the Internet of Things goes even more mainstream this year, Triangle entrepreneurs like these will continue to be at the forefront.

Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur, writer and speaker. Follow him on Twitter @jproco and online at joeprocopio.com

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