Innovative India: A hub for wearable technology

LechalVibrating shoes that guide you to your destination, a ring that enables your fingers control over most gadgets, and a coin-sized electronic device that can help you track your valuables. Indian startups, engaged in innovative wearable technologies, are creating a buzz as they build India’s reputation as a hub for innovative consumer electronic inventions.

Ducere Technologies Pvt., an Indian startup, has designed Bluetooth-enabled footwear — aptly named Lechal shoes — which vibrate to let the user know where and when to turn to reach a pre-set destination.

Once you sync the ‘smartshoes’ with a smartphone app that uses Google maps, your right or left feet will accordingly buzz to alert you to the direction of the turn, providing a complete hands-off and eyes-off interaction. The footwear also informs you if your phone is not in close proximity.

This interesting technology was originally developed with the visually-impaired in mind. But the company soon realized the potential this technology could have for other users as well.

FinOther India-based inventions have also created quite a buzz. Fin, a tiny hardware product, in the shape of a ring, which converts the whole palm into a gesture interface, managed to raise US$200,000 through crowdfunding and has over 1,600 backers.

Or Gecko, a coin-sized electronic device, which can be attached to valuable items such as wallets, bikes and suitcases; so that you can trace them through your phone if they go missing. Gecko impressed many investors, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who endorsed the product on Twitter.

Start-ups have mushroomed across India, and have moved beyond mega-cities. The government too has been attracted by the potential this sector holds and has tried to encourage it. In May 2013, the Indian government announced a scheme, according to which the government will finance 50 per cent of the cost of filing a patent. The scheme was a step to encourage Indian innovation in recognition of the value and capabilities of global intellectual property (IP).

But these products are targeted at the richer markets, and have limited appeal in India. Wearable technology, experts say, will have to wait to be commonplace in an economy like India where smartphones still dominate the market.

Yet, according to Accenture’s digital consumer tech survey 2014, consumers in India were ranked highest among the six countries (Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, the UK, and the US) in the percentages that plan to buy consumer electronics products during the next year in numerous categories. Indians were most interested in buying fitness monitors, smart watches and Internet-enabled eyeglasses.

The world is increasingly looking for new innovations that can make navigating through daily life a bit easier — with India’s reputation as an IT hub, it may well show the way.