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Raj Neravati moved to India from the United States after the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape incident to work on a technology for women’s safety. Eventually, he came up with the idea of a smartwatch with personal safety features and in 2014 launched Hug Innovations.
“Big players have tried to replicate a smartphone into a smartwatch,” said Neravati, founder and chief executive of the Hyderabad-based wearable tech startup. “We wanted to create a safety product which is fast and intuitive and has features which are additional to what smartphones have to offer.” This is where, he believes, the product is different. The smartwatch, along with features for fitness, health and nutrition, has gesture recognition, which can be used if the user’s security is compromised at any point. “It will send an amber alert to the person who is registered as the point of contact,” said Neravati.
The bootstrapped company has sold close to 300 smartwatches since the product was launched six weeks ago. With an idea of keeping the device fun, easy-to-use and intuitive, Neravati says gesture recognition features can be used in multiple areas and can lead to a touchless interaction in Internet of Things, virtual reality, gamification and healthcare, among others. “The device has contextual intelligence. So the same gesture performs a different action based on the device it is being paired with,” he said. The Hug smartwatch can be paired with a music player, laptop, or a Philips smart bulb, among others. Hug Innovations is also in talks with Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra governments to integrate the security feature of its technology into the bullet-proof Rakshak vehicles.
The wearable devices market in India grew 41.9% in the second quarter of the current fiscal over the first quarter when around 400,000 devices were sold, according to International Data Corporation’s wearable device tracker. However, the worldwide smartwatch market declined in shipment volumes by nearly 52% in the third quarter of 2016 as compared to the same quarter in 2015. Experts say the smartwatch and wearables market is over-competitive. “Microsoft had come out with a band, which is dead. Pebble has shut shop and some of it has been acquired by Fitbit,” said Vishal Tripathi, research director at technology research firm Gartner.
Tripathi thinks that in the case of the Hug smartwatch, the personal security feature is attractive, but is not certain if it is compelling enough for a customer to switch from a Fitbit. He also points to the practical challenges of a Hug smartwatch. “I think fitness bands still have their charm. While the SOS feature will add value. It has various practical challenges,” he said. “However, by providing an attractive price, more accuracy than existing bands, the additional features may garner customer’s attention.”
SOURCE: Economic Times
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