"Leave it to the experts" is advice more applicable to wearables more than most other areas of technology. More and more we're seeing companies choose to put their technology into other people's products.
By bringing their expertise together it can be mutually beneficial, whether it's a one-on-one type of deal or a case of tech companies opening up their juicy algorithms to whoever wants to make cool stuff with them.
Sometimes it just makes more sense to share the love.
Ok, what's new?
This week we learned that Lumo is licensing its back-end technology to third parties. Lumo's not saying who exactly will be taking advantage of this, but did confirm it's working with some names in "top sports apparel" and medical devices.
Lumo is known for its running and posture wearables, like the Lumo Lift, but the technology could be used for so much more than regulating our daily bad habits. One example it has suggested is using its posture technology in jobs where lots of heavy lifting is needed. We can see Lumo's tech ending up inside a lot of different types of smart clothing.
Who else is doing this type of thing?
Loads of people. At CES, smart sock company Sensoria announced it would be teaming up with trainer maker Vivobarefoot for a concept running shoe that will track things like speed, pace, GPS and foot landing technique - with Sensoria's Core tech inside.
We saw sports watchmaker Suunto do something similar last year too, partnering with Finnish clothing brand Reima for kids activity tracking jackets. The ReimaGO jacket works with a detachable sensor filled with Suunto's Movesense tech, which is less intrusive than, say, a wrist-worn device - which kids might not be so on board with wearing. It was a way for Suunto to get into smart clothing, without actually making the clothes.
TomTom's even told us it sees interest in clothing, so who knows what we could see happen there one day.
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What's the benefit?
Well, lots of companies have the know-how when it comes to the technology, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're product-savvy, or have the resources to mass manufacturer hardware. Instead they can find a name who's better known for building the hardware or clothing they want to get inside, and just provide the brains.
But important too, it's a clever way for companies - particularly less well known ones - to give their tech more reach. For a startup like Lumo or Sensoria, it makes perfect sense.
Some team-ups are about knowing your strengths and weaknesses, like Valve and HTC for the Vive. Valve knew HTC had the reputation in hardware, and teaming up there has paid off nicely. We may even see Valve do something similar to Lumo by backing other hardware companies beyond HTC in the not-too-distant future.
What does it mean for the road ahead?
Usually, better products. Like we said, this is a recurring theme in wearable tech, and that's partly because there's an entire fashion industry at these companies' fingertips. Not only do these people know how to design things people want to wear, they're household names too. If Fitbit one day sticks its tech inside a pair of Adidas trainers, they're probably going to sell better than some Fitbit-brand shoes, right?
Is it all about clothes?
Not necessarily. To go back to Lumo, that could open up potential for a wide range of other devices, including ones specifically in healthcare. Lumo even mentions that the algorithms in the Lumo Run could be used in gait analysis, which is about studying your body in motion to recommend improvements in running style and footwear. It could also help in fall detection in the elderly, another potentially great reason to open up this technology and get others playing with it. Win win.
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