Huami has been launching scores of wearables for the last year – and now the company has the US in its sights. The Chinese company, which has just renamed to Zepp Health outside of its homeland, is behind Amazfit and Zepp, and it's got big ambitions.
With a combination of top health features and low prices (its excellent Bip U Pro sells for just ), it’s now in the top six wearable brands worldwide, and it’s only looking up.
The company has long been associated with Xiaomi as a manufacturing partner, but it’s quietly amassed a wealth of health technology patents.
Amazfit to launch ECG
“We are currently engaging with the US FDA and on areas such as ECG and blood pressure monitoring. Those things are ongoing right now,” Zepp Health COO Mike Yeung told Wareable in an interview.
“While we are getting our own algorithm to be FDA certified, we are already in partnership with Alivecor here in the States.”
For the uninitiated, Alivcor produces EKG sensors and was the first company to get an ECG accessory for the Apple Watch approved by the FDA.
“We're leveraging our hardware with Alivecor's already FDA-approved ECG algorithm,” Yeung continued.
“We're combining it together into a new thing that which should theoretically, give us a faster approval.”
We’ve seen big name wearable brands trip up over FDA approval in the past – Withings devices have been held up for years – but Yeung was confident that Zepp Health can navigate the regulators, thanks to past experience with the Chinese FDA.
“Everybody heard about how Apple Watch got FDA approval, but to be frank, almost 18 months before that, we actually had our Health Band certified as a medical device by the China FDA so it can measure ECG accurately as a medical device,” he said.
Yeung cited its detection of arrhythmia via ECG as the company’s biggest achievement in wearables – but it’s not looking to play catch up with Apple, Samsung and Fitbit. It wants to go further.
Yeung confirmed to Wareable that the company was working on cuffless blood pressure monitoring and even glucose tracking.
“Our biggest achievement is firstly our ECG, and secondly sleep research. We’re going to continue to further refine those, and then upcoming is in a blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring,” he said.
“We are quite also quite optimistic now, based on current progress, about glucose monitoring. It's been a difficult nut to crack, but we are now more optimistic than ever that we can do it.”
And unlike the Samsung Galaxy Watch that requires a cuff to validate blood pressure readings, Yeung says that its Amazfit and Zepp brands are gunning to make it completely independent:
“We’re working on something that without calibration right now,” Yeung confirmed.
AI deep learning and COVID
For many observers, Amazfit has built its success on low cost devices – but having tested its smartwatches extensively, there’s plenty to like about its app.
“I think one of our biggest differentiation and strength is our algorithm,” said Yeung.
“And our own self-developed sensors, as well as processors which are optimised for low power consumption.”
“We're able to collect a massive amount of data every day. And by leveraging that data that feeds into our artificial intelligence AI deep learning engine, which is self-learning, we can optimise and improve on that on those algorithms very quickly, compared to our competitors which have relatively less shipments,” he said.
Amazfit’s sleep tracking is one example, and we’ve been impressed by the depth of data as well as the use of blood oxygen and heart rate. Likewise, it has automated stress tracking, as well as allowing for spot checks too, and kept battery life around a week. And Stanford University has been impressed enough with Amazfit devices to use them for an on-going large-scale study.
And Zepp Heath is working with Chinese health authorities on COVID-19 detection, for which it's already had some success.
“When the pandemic first started in China we were independently using our own anonymous data and algorithm to see if we could detect people who might have COVID,” he said.
The company looked at the markers and anonymous health data and tried to isolate unusual health markers and biometrics from its user base. It found plenty of data, and then looked to see if that was happening elsewhere in the world. And it saw it happening in Spain.
“We analysed and predicted that in Europe, Spain would be probably the first country with a huge explosion of cases of COVID, based on our analysis of our own users using our algorithm,” Yeung said. The data caught the eye of Chinese authorities, and the company is now working on large scale trials for COVID detection.
Getting Spotify on board
Even with comparable health features, Zepp Health has struggled to attract consumers in the US.
Yeung says its app and ecosystem in China is much more complete, but it’s working to bring in global partners, and mentions that a Spotify app could be on the way:
“We’re with ecosystem partners in some instances, such as Spotify. Music playing and payment, for example, these are things we are engaging with all the local partners to beef up.”
And this is part of Zepp Health’s big expansion plans for Amazfit and Zepp.
“Over half of our products are sold overseas, outside of China. But mostly in Europe and Southeast Asia.
“And we do have a very ambitious plan for North America expansion. Actually, we planned to expand very aggressively in North America last year, but due to COVID, we suspended that.”
And if the company launches wearables at the same rate this year, challenging the big players with health features, a strong ecosystem and low prices – it won’t be long until the US market takes notice.