For Kreyos, whose Meteor smartwatch has been compared to the Star Trek Communicator, entering the crowdfunded smartwatch game later means learning from the production mistakes that its predecessors such as Pebble watch stumbled over.
That’s what we heard from Patricia Roché, vice president of marketing for the San Francisco-based Kreyos, who chatted with Upstart Business Journal after she was part of a panel on smartwatches at the Wearable Tech Expo in New York City, which ends today.
“One of the things that we realized is that with a lot of the first-generation watches like Pebble, what they marketed [on Kickstarter in the beginning] was ideas and they still had a lot of development to do,” says Roché. “So what happened is people were getting very frustrated because they wanted their watch. We didn’t want to get into that position where they’re waiting a year. So we got all the development done, the molds made, everything ready to go before we launched on Indiegogo. So as a result, you will definitely have them shipped in November.”
As of today, Kreyos has raised more than $907,000 on Indiegogo with 15 days left in its campaign. Pebble Watch achieved a record by raising $10 million on Kickstarter, and while it’s now being sold via Best Buy, some of its backers on Kickstarter were angered about having to wait for their watch because of production delays, growing more incensed after the Best Buy deal, because they wanted their watches first.
If you hadn’t heard about Kreyos Meteor smartwatch it’s been compared to the Star Trek Communicator and the Dick Tracy watch as it is the first smartwatch with voice and gesture control (video below worth watching). Wearers can take phone calls, respond to texts and social media alerts when they are unable to get to the phone easily—because they’re exercising, driving, surfing or holding an infant. Because the gadget has a microphone and a speaker, you can carry on a two-way conversation with the person on the other end and chat with Siri or another personal assistant to send messages.
Kreyos Metero can be used with an iPhone, Android, or Windows 8 smartphone and it’s waterproof, with activity tracking, heart rate monitoring and other features. It also is offered not just as a watch but as something you can clip onto your clothing or belt or wear around your neck.
At least for now, the founders, an international team of “shy” techies, according to Roché have asked her to be the face of the company while they work on production issues surrounding the watch, which begins shipping to those who order it via Indiegogo in November. Two of the founders are in Asia right now, working on the final manufacturing to make sure everything is working correctly, says Roché.
There will be a small manufacturing run to release in September for press to try and review, and a larger one in November so that investors will have them in time for the holidays, Roché says. While the small company, which has fewer than 20 employees, has had some “amazing distributors” approach them to see if they can start selling it by Christmas, they’ve been reluctant to make promises.
“One of the things we’ve said is that we don’t want to overextend ourselves and commit to something like that and then not have it delivered, so we are holding off on some of those big deals, ” she said. “We want to meet the commitments to the people that invested on Indiegogo. It’s very important that we stick to that, because customer service is important to us.”
So what’s the market potential for smartwatches? Although analysts have estimated wearable technology as a whole could be a $30 billion to $50 billion market within the next five years, even smartwatch manufacturers on a panel earlier today were reluctant to put a dollar figure on it saying the most accurate thing to be said was that it was taking off as we speak.
Skooks Pong, senior vice president of technology at Synapse Product Development, whose software engineering team has worked on wearable devices like the Nike Fuelband, says that he sees the market taking off when the technology itself “fades into the background” and the watches can serve a real function for wearers such as mobile wallet or health functions.
“What can I do to eliminate my wallet? Or what will take so that I don’t have to carry a bus pass anymore?” he says, citing examples of features that might make the gadgets an imperative.
He attributes part of the Nike Fuelband’s popularity to it being able to serve a function and to fade around the background, since the plastic band design was something many consumers already felt comfortable with because of the Livestrong bracelets.
“It’s not so different than what we saw when tablets first came out,” said Chris Massot, chief marketing officer of Synapse. “You have to find that one practical application that has a tipping point.”