Round-up: The inside track on #wearabletech in China
Shenzhen in China is at the epicenter of the PC industry, the home of the LED, and the poster child for the ICT boom. It’s home to two of the largest tech companies in China, Huawei and ZTE, and Lenovo has a major presence there. So it would be a logical assumption that if you wanted to see the next-generation of wearable technology, you’d head out there … right?
Well … not really.
Before arriving in Shenzhen, I’d assumed that gadget-land China would be the place to get the inside track: Attending the China High-Tech Fair would give me the jump on what’s new and hip and launching at CES in January?
At the show, the highest-profile wearable exhibitor was the American vendor iHealth … unless you count the “copy China” knock-offs, which mostly looked pretty much like the Nike+ FuelBand. Apart from that, wearable technology sightings were scanty, although there were quite a few devices focused on personal healthcare monitoring.
It was time to search harder – which took me deep into the Shenzhen hinterland to visit a company making smartphone power bricks (big in China, yet to really catch on in the west), personal breathalyzers (not sure if they are big anywhere in the world, actually) and branching out into WT prototypes.
Like almost everything tech in China, the prototypes came in a resealable clear plastic bag – and alongside the bog-standard pedometer (“we see this as a low-price branded corporate gift”), there was the Jawbone UP lookalike. Hmm, must try harder. OLED display? Wireless charging? The stock answer was a polite nod and a promise to “tell the labs”.
Back to downtown Shenzhen, where, by sheer chance, a TechCrunch meet-up was taking place. At last … almost every other attendee was sporting a Jawbone, Fitbit or FuelBand, including TC gadgets editor John Biggs (rocking a Fitbit Force), who was so loaded up with kit on the night that he could hardly carry it home. But then again, at least 50 percent of the attendees were expats.
At least I had the chance to meet local entrepreneur Jimmy Liao, who is looking to raise $50k on Indiegogo for his Force-like WT band with a difference (more to come on that), and where I learned about a Hong Kong-based start-up that’s planning to do away with “old skool” Bluetooth syncing in favor of a newer, sleeker tech. Some thoughts on that in Part Two…
for now, some pictures…
Images: Fitbit Force lookalike / Nike+ FuelBand lookalike / wristband blood pressure monitor / ridiculously large wristwatch TV (images © Simon Jones)