November 2021 | 668 words | 2-minute read
Hug Innovations was founded in 2014, triggered by the 2012 Nirbhaya incident. I left my COO (chief operating officer) position in the United States (US) and moved back to India with an aspiration to develop a wearable that would ensure women’s safety on the move.
We invested heavily in technology; our first product, Hug Smartwatch, was embedded with safety features and manufactured by Foxconn, a Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturer. Hug developed the Smart Gesture technology to recognise hand gestures and raise an alarm, without a camera or line of action.
In 2019, Hug won a patent in the US for this unique technology that also opened up a new world of possibilities in home automation and appliance control. The company received several accolades and global recognition for innovation during its five-year journey.
The making of a tech titan
In January 2020, Titan Company Ltd (Titan) acqui-hired Hug Innovations that became Titan’s Hyderabad Development Centre. The centre’s goal is to shape the future of Titan’s technology for wearables and hearables with an exciting roadmap to personalise consumer experience and make a visible difference in this space.
Titan has, in the past, released consumer-savvy products in the Wearables space but has relied solely on its partner and vendor ecosystem. Through the acqui-hiring of Hug Innovations, the company has gained that much-needed technology team. Titan was rated as number two in India for wearables at the time of this acqui-hire. On the other hand, Hug had the technology and deep product-engineering experience, but we did not have brand and market presence. Hug Innovations’ vision and culture were aligned with Titan, and it became an easy decision to join this household brand of India to realise this vision.
Wearables have seen significant growth in the Indian market. The past year has seen a shift from smart bands to smartwatches, with many consumers opting for smartwatches with a rectangular face. Other trends: a majority of market growth is in the under-10k price segment and EMIs seem to be preferred for purchase of these gadgets.
When it comes to features, consumers’ wearables choices are largely driven by specs like AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes) display technology, Bluetooth calling, health parameters (SpO2 [blood oxygen level], body temperature, heart rate monitoring), voice enablement (Alexa), GPS (global positioning system) and multi-sport mode (sports).
Another interesting call-out is consumers’ demand to have 100+ watch faces in their smart-watches. This need led to the development of an ecosystem around watch faces, which includes marketplace and third-party platforms like WatchMaker, Facer and MobyFace.
The future of wearables
Wearables are seeing a huge transformation powered by continuous innovation, and every component of wearables is being disrupted in this process. Some predictions:
- Edge computing: Deep learning and edge processing capabilities on the wearable without the need to push data to mobile app/cloud.
- Preventive care to clinical care: Sensors, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, to assist in clinical diagnosis (ECG, BP, non-invasive glucose monitoring).
- Remote patient monitoring as a service: Evolving platforms, supported by wearables, to enable remote patient monitoring for senior citizens.
- Energy harvesting: Using RFID (radio frequency identification) for converting kinetic energy to charge the battery, thereby extending the battery life of wearables.
Observing the change in market dynamics, Titan has planned an aggressive roadmap for the next 24 months, including both device and platform strategy. The company will be launching products at various price points, hosting a range of features that its consumers, distributed across age groups, are seeking.
Titan has invested in technology that includes daily activities, challenges, rewards, rich content, music and more, to personalise consumer experiences and drive better engagement with them. Compared to the past, Titan has put a plan in place to reduce the gap between product launches. This strategy will help the company to gauge the consumer pulse and launch relevant products that fit their needs in a timely manner.
The author, Raj Neravati, is the head of Technology, Watches and Wearables, Titan Company Ltd