With the demise of smart jewellery brands like Ringly, Wisewear and Vinaya it is natural to think that the "beautiful and intelligent" wearable tech accessory has reached the end of the line.
In fact, the fashion brands brands of yesteryear that came, conquered and exited stage left, still contributed valuable use cases that have pushed forward the evolution of intelligent jewellery. This, in turn, is leading to the emergence of new smart accessory startups working towards mainstream appeal. One of these is Sakhī which is aiming to be the Pandora of smart jewellery.
Charmed, I'm sure
Sakhī is pronounced 'Suhkhee' and means female friend in Sanskrit. It's a line of customisable, connected charm bracelets that will allow wearers to add beads and charms to match their attire, style or occasion. Expect to see it launch on Indiegogo in the coming months for around $200.
"Women like flexibility," founder Vivek Vaid told Wareable. "With Sakhī they can add charms and beads to their liking. They will no longer be limited to the constrained looks of smart wearables that are currently out there".
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The metal bracelet module will be available in matte black steel, polished steel, matte bronze and polished bronze, with a soft leather band that can be turned into a double wrap style with an extender. Each Sakhī will have two gems which hide smart buttons for the main functions.
Targeting a wide age range of women from students to working professionals to 'senior' women, the Sakhī bracelet can be customised with most charms and beads from brands like Pandora, Chamilia, Biagi or Brighton – though it's worth noting there's no official partnerships with these brands. "With some wearables in the form of bracelets today there is no freedom of design, like a customisable bracelet with beads would have," said Vaid.
The startup behind Sakhī, Swarg Tech, is based in Michigan and it's interested in the Internet of Things beyond tech trinkets, with ambitions in the smart home, automotive and industrial domains. When it comes to wearable tech, its engineers want to build non-intrusive devices that add to the wearer's quality of life. So what can these tech charm bracelets actually do?
A safety conscious smart bracelet
Let's start with the basics. As you'd expect, this smart bracelet can let you know you've got smartphone alerts via a small clear crystal which you can program with custom colours – similar to Ringly in fact.
It's also an activity tracker and the smaller of its two main oval crystals/cabochons/gems can be set as a smart button for customised actions such as controlling music, taking selfies etc. Both opaque and translucent gem stones are planned – the latter able to display information via an OLED display but bringing battery life down from six to three days. Plus there's wireless charging on board.
Besides these now standard functions, the Sakhī bracelet has three key features that make it stand out. Firstly, Swarg Tech plans to launch with Alexa voice controls built in. The idea is that you can activate Amazon's voice assistant by pressing the large oval gem. Once you do this you can then say something like, "Alexa, add bread to my shopping list" or "Alexa, switch on the kitchen lights".
The second is the SOS trigger that can be activated by the wearer when they are in distress or in a dangerous situation. The activation is done by pressing both the large and small oval gems together to ensure it's unlikely this will be accidentally triggered. A message with your GPS location is then sent to designated contacts via your smartphone, making it a personal safety wearable too.
"Most SOS devices in the market work by just connecting to the user's cellphone via Bluetooth. However, our devices add another layer of backup communication – our patent pending Direct Jewellery to Jewellery wireless link," shared Vaid. "Should your cellphone stop working, be stolen or have no cell network, our Sakhi jewellery can connect to nearby Sakhī (up to 1km/0.6 miles) and send the message. It is like passing a message to a friend in case of emergency."
It's a nice idea, if one that relies on the kind of scale of say the Apple Watch rather than a smart jewellery startup. Still, safety is a great addition to an everyday smart bracelet. Swarg Tech has more up its sleeve with this tech, though.
Because, thirdly, Sakhī can connect to Swarg Tech's own child GPS tracker Radius. Set to launch in the next few months, the Radius Kids GPS watch will allow mums wearing their Sakhī bracelet to track their kids while they are in the 1km range, including remote areas where there is no cell phone connection.
With so many great features on offer, the road to creating Sakhī has not been entirely smooth. Vaid admitted that there have been a few challenges, including stamina. "Battery life of such a tiny product was a challenge," he said. "Currently, we can commit to a maximum six-day battery life."
The team also ran into a problem common to smart jewellery makers – metal and Bluetooth signals not mixing. They found out that the Czech hand-crafted beads with gold and silver foils have a metal in them that inhibits wireless signals. "We had to choose only the Czech glass cabochons which have very little or no gold/silver foils," he said. "Fortunately Preciosa has a wide selection of hand-made Czech glass cabochons which have infused colour glass-particles instead of silver/gold foils. We have to carefully choose these beads not only for their beauty but also per their measured wireless signal performance in our jewellery."
With prototypes already built and plans to devote next year to expanding their collection, the Sakhī team will be working with jewellery designers so they can add to their current line. It's an ambitious product to be sure but Vaid is confident that the first generation Sakhī smart bracelet will be available via Indiegogo and Swarg Tech's website in the coming months. With an early bird price still to be announced, the bracelet is currently priced around $200 and is set to ship in January 2019.
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