Welt, the health tracking belt recently secured its crowdfund goal on Kickstarter, which means the unique wearable device is all set to ship in January 2017. There's interest coming from all over the world, but backers from the US and Korea are apparently most intrigued to see whether Welt can help fight the fat. That's according to Welt's CFO and co-founder Ken Roh.
Roh also tells us that there are plans to launch a first product offline in Korea in December, and using the feedback from the successful campaign it'll launch a beta to help put the finishing touches to the final version before that big January release.
To jog your memory, the smart belt was first demoed at CES in January this year and is designed to help manage overeating and obesity. Roh and Welt CEO Sean Kang first came up with the idea while working at Samsung, winning an internal competition held by the company. The two then established Welt just a few months ago having begun the quest to make an invisible healthcare device in 2015.
It joins a host of other successful spin off startups from Samsung's C-Lab in-house incubator program, which also includes smartwatch strap Sgnl's recent, very successful, launch on Kickstarter, smart shoe makers IOFIT, an 'idea printer' and a photo app. All are aiming to release new devices over the coming months.
So how does Welt work? All the tracking tech is stored in the belt buckle. Firstly, it can send an exact waist measurement to a smartphone app and, using algorithms, even knows if this is down to bloating, overeating or actual weight gain. This is tracked and displayed on a graph in real time. "They just wear it like a belt and forget about it for a month," Doh explained. "You can check your health status in the app and it will guide you on how to make improvements."
Doh calls waist size data interesting because it's an absolute metric. According to WHO (World Health Organisation), if you're a man with a waist size that's over 37-inches, you're more likely to be exposed to a metabolic syndrome connected to cardiovascular diseases or Type 2 diabetes. It's something the US Department of Health, NHS and other services would agree with.
The waist is also a good place to track steps and activity as you won't fool the wearable into thinking you're moving vigorously when you're just typing, for instance, as per wrist-based trackers. The wearable also calculates inactive sitting time throughout the day.
Welt is set to be compatible with both iOS and Android and stores data for up to 30 days. Currently, that data can only be fed into the startup's own companion app, but it's keen to make it play nice with the major health and fitness platforms in the future. "Apple Health and Samsung S Health don't cover waist size, but we do have a roadmap to connect our data to these health platforms in the future," Roh told us.
The roll out
To get it ready for the masses, the Welt team had to put it to the test and during that process it found out some interesting things about measuring from the waist. "Within Samsung we gave it an alpha test, built tons of prototypes collecting data from Samsung employees. We're still doing that with our own employees at Welt.
"One of the most surprising aspects of the testing was around the waist sizes. The user-recognised waist sizes and the user's waist size were very different mainly because of the trouser size. When you buy a trouser size of 32 inches it's really different from your actual waist size. It's actually bigger than you think"
The challenge with any piece of tech that wants to be truly invisible is that it has to do just that; blend in and not stick out like a sore thumb. Roh believes that was the biggest challenge when designing Welt. It had to look like a belt and had to be small. That's why the smart belt masquerading as a fashion accessory is set to be available in Classic, Casual and Premium styles, all leather in a range of colours including light brown, burgundy, beige, orange, black, blue, cobalt and morange (which is apparently a thing). Prices start from $129 and go all the way up to $259 for the Premium edition.
There are also three buckle types, square, hook and rounded, and there's also two women's options in light brown and beige. Size wise, you can get one in small, medium, large and extra large. "We are collaborating with multiple fashion brands," Doh said. "We are manufacturing the belts in one of the biggest factories in Korea, where they make top quality belts for major fashion brands."
With the Welt months away from landing on the doorsteps of its backers, Roh and his team are already looking to the future, and the good news is that it doesn't mean getting your wallet out again. "We're hiding some features for a future firmware update, Roh revealed. "So when the users get our product they will be able to enjoy more features in the future.
We are planning on improving the battery life for instance. It's currently 20 days. In January, we showcased Welt with 7 days battery life and now in six months we've been able to get that up to 20 days." A smart belt that has the potential to get smarter has certainly got our attention, and we eagerly await to see how Welt measures up against the health tracking competition.