Smart rings haven't taken off in the same way that fitness trackers or smartwatches have, but there's the research to suggest they will be big business in the not too distant future.
Montreal-based startup Blinq wants a piece of the smart rings right now and is preparing to launch its first smart ring collection in September this year. The distinct line of smart rings will be available in three finishes, with seven gemstone possibilities and twelve different styles. Notifications via vibrations and LED lights, fitness tracking and a SOS distress feature make up the core connected features.
There's also a big emphasis on making these wearables look the part with the rings being constructed from 925 Sterling Silver and 14k gold. "Design is at the forefront of our collection," Blinq co-founder David Mamane told us.
The birth of Blinq
The idea to make fine smart jewellery came about when Mamane, a jeweller, with 20 years of experience under his belt, experienced problems staying in touch with his wife. Often, she was unable to hear her phone ring, especially when it was left at the bottom of her handbag.
Deciding to seek a sleeker solution, Mamane partnered up with David Sigal and together they started exploring the wearables space. "After much research I discovered that most smart accessories were not suitable for my wife 's fashion-conscious lifestyle," he explained. "She is a marketing director at a major fashion retailer, and therefore she needed a genuinely beautiful product, that would be compatible with her career and tastes." Upon realising that there was a gap in the market for smart fine jewellery, he decided to come up with a wearable that could be both functional and stylish.
What Blinq believes makes its smart rings different from others is that they have been designed with fine jewellery aesthetics in mind. "When we explored the wearable tech landscape, we noticed a pattern: most existing products sacrificed form and style in exchange for function," said Mamane. "Many smartwatches and other wearables had awkward 'bulk' or used sporty, not-so-sexy materials like rubber and plastic."
"For fashion-conscious consumers, that just wasn't good enough. We set out to create smart, fine jewellery using precious metals and genuine hand cut gemstones that look as good as it works. We spent hours designing beautiful rings that seamlessly integrate high-tech with beautiful style. The designs speak for themselves."
Picking the right smarts
Staying true to their mission, Blinq jewellery could easily be styled to any look, regardless of its features and functions. Inside each finger ornament is a discreet yet powerful Bluetooth-enabled mobile device that connects with your smartphone. "We have the smallest Bluetooth-enabled smart ring on the planet. This was absolutely critical in our design process," said Mamane. "Our technology is the 13mm by 13mm x 10mm ceramic cube that houses the motherboard, battery, vibration mechanism, charging coil, antenna, LED etc. The cube is the master brain that we built the Blinq ring around."
Blinq's standout features include an SOS Alert system and its Gem-Glow technology used for its notification setup. The SOS Alert system is a geo-location system that keeps you safe no matter where you are. If you're ever lost, in danger or injured, you can immediately notify your friends with a custom-tapping sequence. This will send a distress message by text as well as a link to your location, to any Facebook wall if you so choose. Depending on your situation, SOS sensitivity settings can be adjusted in the companion app.
The Gem-Glow technology gives the wearer the option of receiving notifications through a special backlight that lights your gemstone up in a colour of your choosing. You can always turn off the LED and receive vibration notifications only as well and Blinq refers to this as 'stealth mode'.
The IP67 water resistant wearable also packs in a built-in step counter and activity tracker that syncs your daily activity logs with the Blinq app. You can get a full daily reading of your total steps, calories burned, and total distance covered. The ring also connects with apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Blinq is currently working on connecting to Twitter too. "Giving the wearer complete control when it comes to their notifications was a must," said Mamane. "As I was testing the product, I personally like to separate my work and home life using the colours. For example, work colleagues are blue, and my wife is another colour. This keeps things simple," he added.
Crowdfunding and beyond
Blinq is preparing to launch its Kickstarter campaign in September with backers able to pick a ring up for $149 or $129 for early bird backers. "We are currently in the final stages of development with our rings," Mamane told us. "Once the crowdfunding begins, we hope to ship them out to the backers from October 2017."
With plans to work exclusively with retailers at the end of their Kickstarter campaign, pledging could be the only way consumers can get hold of a Blinq ring. Blinq says it's hoping to collaborate with major retailers across the US, Asia, UK and the rest of Europe to make it easier to grab one of its smart rings.
It already has high hopes to add to the collection with plans to launch 2-4 lines a year and it won't just be rings either. Blinq has also confirmed that it will be adding five bracelet styles that are currently in prototype stage of development. Clearly this is one wearable tech startup that has designs not just on building beautiful devices, but doing it for many years to come.