Mattresses with sleep detectors, tennis racquets with microprocessors and deadbolts with Bluetooth connectivity — the trend of adding a digital component to traditionally analog products is beginning to turn every company into a “tech company.” Is this a bad thing? Of course not! With the right amount of imagination and ingenuity, every business is capable of creating a computerized brand extension.
Cisco predicts there will be 10 billion smartphones in use around the world by 2016, averaging 1.4 phones per person. Add that to the 1.094 billion tablets the Yankee Group predicts will be in our hands by 2017, and it’s clear that mobile technology will play an increasingly significant role in our day-to-day lives. Luckily for consumers, many innovative companies from all corners of the marketplace are beginning to embrace this technological awakening.
Take Nike for example. What started with one man’s waffle iron has turned into the most iconic name in athletic apparel. And now, thanks to their Nike+ division, Nike is at the forefront of fitness apps and activity trackers. From sensors stitched into the soles of your shoes, to accelerometers wrapped around your wrist, to free training videos for your smartphone or tablet, Nike has made it clear that there’s more to the garment industry than needles and thread.
Nike+ is a great example of what doubling down on digital technology can do for an already successful company. Had Nike stuck with their tried-and-true running shoes and moisture-wicking clothing, they would be struggling to keep up with an industry that’s estimated to hit $19 billion in sales by 2018. Instead, they’re leading the charge and reaping the profits. Although Nike won’t disclose exact figures, analysts believe the Nike+ running division earned $840 million dollars in 2011 alone.
Kwikset was quick to jump on the digital bandwagon by creating the world’s most advanced deadbolt, Kevo. Kevo is a Bluetooth-compatible door lock that turns your iPhone, iPod or iPad into your new house key. Users can come and go as they please without ever having to reach into their purse or pocket. They simply press the lock with their finger and the Bluetooth signal from their mobile device does the rest.
Like all things relating to mobile technology, the best part of Kevo is its sharability. Let’s say you have a relative paying you a visit, but you can’t get away from the office to bring them a key. Rather than putting your valuables at risk by hiding a spare beneath your doormat, you could simply assign them an eKey via the Kevo app and go about your business. eKeys also give Kevo owners the ability to track who locked and unlocked their door and when they did it. And since eKeys are intangible objects, they’re impossible to duplicate.
Before Kevo, Kwikset was simply known as a lock manufacturer, but after successfully combining a 19th century device with state-of-the-art smartphones, they’ve earned the right to call themselves a tech company. The same can be said for French tennis racket manufacturer, Babolat.
Although technology has always played a major role in the design and production of sports equipment, the computer chips and sensors used in the testing process rarely make it out of the R&D department. That’s all about to change thanks to the new Babolat Play Pure Drive tennis racquet.
Whether you’ve been hitting the courts since the day you could walk or picking up a racket for the first time, the Play Pure Drive provides ball strikers of all skill levels with an accurate assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. The secret behind the one-of-a-kind racket is a series of sensors embedded in the handle of the frame that record the spin rate, striking location and power behind each shot. The racket also differentiates between serves, forehands and backhands. As the Quantified Self movement picks up steam, consumers will be clamoring for products that provide more insight into their daily activities.
Once the data is collected, users can access their statistics through the Babolat Play app via a smartphone or tablet. But what good would all this information be if you couldn’t share it with your buddies? Similar to the Nike+ FuelBand, Babolat Play Pure Drive users can share and compare their results with everyone from their coach to tennis enthusiasts on the other side of the globe. Tennis rackets have come a long way since the days of wooden frames, but it was Babolat who truly brought high tech in swing technique.
The most exciting thing about this new breed of tech company is the fact that we’ve barely scratched the surface. There are all sorts of businesses and products just waiting for an opportunity to be paired up with motion sensors or Bluetooth connections. As a matter of fact, you lay on one every night. That’s right, your mattress is a gold mine for data collection and innovation.
Wearables devices like the FitBit Force and the Jawbone Up currently do a decent job of monitoring your sleeping habits, but that’s where the technology ends. Imagine how useful it would be if our mattresses could instantly respond to that information. Maybe your mattress could adjust its firmness if it senses you’re tossing and turning too much? Maybe an internal heater or fan could kick on if your body temperature drops below or exceeds a certain range? There’s even the potential for your mattress to replace your alarm clock, gently shaking you awake at a predetermined time or during the ideal point of your sleep cycle.
The “tech company” moniker may have started in Silicon Valley, but it’s currently spreading throughout the world faster than a viral video. Adding computing power to your product line has gone from being an option for innovators to a necessity for nearly every business on the planet. The modern consumer has an insatiable need for faster, smarter and more interconnected devices, and the only way to meet the demand is through technological innovations.