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Investors are betting big on fitness tech

(TECH) Fitness tech is getting sophisticated, and investors are eyeballing the market for new opportunities and innovations.

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Fitness tech is hitting the ground running, and ambitious startups are looking to leverage all the awesome emerging technologies to propel themselves forward. Startups are seeking to leverage AI, genomics, virtual reality, and biometrics to make fitness tech more effective and more personal.

Fitness tech startups are emerging in every type of product it seems – wearables, subscription based coaching services, gamification, eco-friendly running shoes (like Vivobarefoot), high quality performance earbuds, scales that do heat mapping (go google Shapescale). Even smartshirts like Hexoskin, a Canada-based startup working to provide a smartshirt that tracks fitness over time (and shocker – you can wash it!).

Beyond inspiring the health-minded millennials or the metric-hungry researcher, investors are eyeballing fitness tech startups and see great potential. According to CBInsights, funding hit several all-time highs for fitness last year, with over 2.4 billion dollars reported in equity funding since 2013 – that number has likely only increased as more and more companies are competing in the fitness-focused consumer realm.

Here’s some numbers, geeks: Genomics start-up FitnessGenes (which provides DNA-driven diet and exercise advice) disclosed $5 million in funding, and AThGene follows up with $4.7 million in disclosed funding. Skulpt – a handheld body scanner, captured over $6.59 million in funding, a standout amongst 3D body imaging. Volt Athletics uses predictive analytics and AI enabled smart coaching, and boasted $2.44 million in funding.

Fitness tech startups are hitting big domestically, but abroad as well. India and China both have strong national policies promoting physical health and fitness-focused careers, mix that with stronger middle class buying power and more access to mobile technologies and that is setting a perfect stage for companies like India’s CureFit, which has netted $46 million in funding.

Fitness technology is only going to continue to get more powerful, and its applications will continue to be more useful not only for consumers, but also for medical and research professionals. Smartwatches, headphones, shirts, and yoga mats – our bodies are becoming an attractive stage for the Internet of Things that has taken over our homes, cars, and businesses.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, there are new opportunities to leverage emerging technologies to help make us more fit and prevent injuries. The future seems exciting too – what happens when smart homes meet smart fitness and our houses start using our biodata to learn our routines? The future is exciting!

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Tech News

Apple loses money on repairs, critics cry foul on the entire process

(TECH NEWS) Apple is losing money on repairs because they hold such a restrictive hold on their tech, right to repair groups are making headway through legislation

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Apple claims it’s losing money on repairs. Right to repair groups and other critics call B.S.

So, what’s the deal?

This whole thing started with Apple testifying to the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. During the remarks, which were crafted by Apple VP of Corporate Law, Apple insisted that over the past decade, they have spent more money than they’ve earned on repairs.

The trouble is, when you look at the official Apple repair costs (which are upwards of $329 for a screen repair!), it can be hard to see how the company could possibly be hemorrhaging cash.

Now, it’s true that AppleCare warranties might be contributing to a dip in revenue. With a warranty, users pay far less out of pocket for repairs. Matthew Gault from Motherboard provides an additional frame of reference, pointing out that many repairs and replacements have come from poorly designed keyboards on some Macbooks. In these cases, the broken keyboard can’t be fixed, so the company has been forced to replace many of these free of charge.

Regardless of how the revenue dip is occurring, though, there’s another reason critics cry foul – Apple’s restrictive repair policies.

Apple frames its insistence that users come to Apple verified locations to fix their tech as a way to keep people safe. The company argues that individuals trying to fix their phone on their own, for example, could risk dangerous results, including an exploding iPhone! While this is a possible outcome, however, some people believe the risks don’t have to be so high.

“We’ve replaced hundreds of batteries and screens for legislators while they watch…these repairs aren’t rocket science,” retorts Gay Gordon-Bryne, executive director of Repair.org. Part of the reason Apple’s products are more difficult to repair is because they often withhold parts and information, making it harder for customers to make the repairs themselves.

In fact, Apple has even released software updates rendering touch screens replaced by third parties as inconvenient or even unusable.

Those who believe in the right to repair – meaning customers should be able to fix and modify their purchases if desired – have railed against Apple for years and this current controversy is no exception.

Nathan Proctor, Right to Repair Chief at the US Public Interest Research Group, succinctly explains the situation: “Apple wants their customers, and the federal government, to accept the notion that while a repair monopoly exists, it’s a beneficial monopoly, made for our good.”

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Google tries social again by finding the best places to go or whatever

(TECH NEWS) Google has tried and failed social networking for years; their newest attempt is by following guides to the best sites, food, and businesses

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Google, as Google does, is once again trying to be all things to all people. Its latest move is to combine the follow feature of social networks like Facebook and Instagram, reviews of businesses and restaurants like you’d see on Yelp, and maps.

Apparently, Google already has a program called Local Guides, launched in 2015, in which users can earn status and perks for contributing a lot of detailed reviews and photos to business listings in Maps. It’s Google’s answer to Yelp Elites. Local Guides are a bit like critics, a bit like influencers, a bit like tour guides, and a bit like that local friend you call because they always know the best place to get a bite to eat, which stores are having a sale, or which venue is hosting a great show. Local Guides make it a little easier to get to know a town, whether you just moved in, are just visiting, or are looking for new places to check out in your own hometown.

There are about 120 million Local Guides in 24,000 locations. In exchange for beefing up Google’s content, Local Guides get rewarded with freebies, discounts, access to exclusive features, coupons, and invitations to in-person meetups.

It was at such a meetup, the annual Connect Live Local Guides summit, that Google recently announced its pilot program for a feature wherein a user can “follow” their favorite Local Guides by hitting a follow button on the guide’s profile page. After following a local guide, you can search Google Maps and that guide’s content will appear along with your search results. A photo collage from the guide’s review will pop up first, and by clicking on the photos you can access the text of the review.

Google is trying out the feature in the U.S. in New York and San Francisco, and internationally in Bangkok, Delhi, London, Mexico City, Osaka, Tokyo, and São Paulo.

The new feature seems to part of Google’s attempt to take on Facebook as the primary place to find out about local businesses, events, sales, and other goings on. A year ago, Google started allowing users to follow local businesses’ listings in Maps, much as you would a business’s Facebook page. And this past summer, Google rolled out more features for businesses to flesh out their profiles on Google Maps with photos and updates, and to connect with customers.

I must admit that as a frequent user of Google Maps, I’ve never even noticed the Local Guides feature. So I’m a bit skeptical as to whether or not this concept will take off. After all, Google’s past attempts to crack into social networking with Google Plus have been more or less a bust.

Nonetheless, there does seem to be a certain logic to adding more informational and connective features to the Maps app. After all, if you’re looking for a seafood restaurant or consignment store near you, you’re not going to go to Facebook and browse through a bunch businesses’ pages, hoping to find one nearby. Unless you already know the name of business, Facebook isn’t going to help you much. You’re going to open Maps, because it will find the businesses that are closest to your location. Yelp is great because of the quality of the reviews, but if you could find those reviews without leaving the Maps app, why would you?

While I don’t see Local Guides becoming a bustling social network, I don’t see why you shouldn’t follow a Local Guide whose opinion you’ve come to trust. Whereas social networks like Instagram and Facebook are designed to keep your eyes on the screen and your thumbs scrolling, using Maps to find business locations is all about getting you out and about in the world. By borrowing features from social networking, Google can make it a little easier for users to find out exactly where they want to go – so that they can put down the phone and start dining, drinking, shopping, and enjoying themselves.

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Brave: A whole new browser with user privacy in mind

(TECH NEWS) Brave is boldly going where most web browsers are not: actually private internet browsing, with slick features in tow.

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You’re probably paranoid about your internet privacy. And if you aren’t: you should be. Hackers can hack your camera, your doorbell and even your lightbulbs without much effort.

And even the most paranoid end users are still painting a picture themselves as a consumer to advertisers. Though it’s through legitimate means (although that fact is iffy according to the EU), it’s still invasive enough to make you want to live off the grid. But these days, that’s almost impossible, considering so much of our modern work and personal lives exist online.

That’s why the newest browser to enter the field is going where no other web browsers have gone before. Brave is the first web browser to offer complete and automatic tracker ad and tracker blocking.

No more will you have to find an Adblocker – one that doesn’t happen to be malware – and install that separately from your browser. Or futz around in settings hoping to configure it correctly to block the cookie tracking in the way you want. Brave starts that way, out of the box. Another bonus? Brave offers private browsing with teeth. For computer based browsing, you can open a private window with Tor to keep your connection completely encrypted and secure.

And if you’ve ever used Chrome, you’ll have a great head start on understanding how to use this browser. Brave runs on Chromium, which is why it’s end-user experience is reminiscent of Chrome. And because it runs on Chromium, it also means it supports most Chrome extensions right out of the gate. (Although, those browser extensions can put your data at risk and counteract some of what Brave is trying to do for you.)

Of course, all talk around privacy and ad blocking in the internet browser community is a hot button item. One perpetual ethical question: is it okay to block ads, especially from publications trying to raise revenue? Brave thinks so. That’s because of one of its features designed to support quality content: the Brave Wallet. Its Patreon meets Ko-Fi. Creators can sign up with the program and users can decide to give tips via cryptocurrency to their creator page, all done through the toolbar. You can also earn cryptocurrency through consuming Brave’s ads and choosing to send that to a trusted creator.

Another question: will people hop on the Brave train now that everyone is getting serious about privacy? Firefox, Safari and Edge are all implementing better privacy features in their current and future updates. What’s going to be the thing that causes people to stick with it?

For this end-user of Brave, one thing that keeps me going so far is being told how effective it is. I’ve only used the browser for two days across all my devices and I’ve blocked over 3,000 different trackers. And there’s a certain amount of trust I’m willing to place with a browser that claims to be hypervigilant about my privacy.

Brave truly is the browser answer in our Brave New World.

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