StretchSense, a start-up which develops and manufactures wearable sensors, has been selected by an international jury as one of the world’s most innovative wearable technology companies.
The Auckland-based company was named a finalist from more than 500 global entries in the WT Innovation World Cup 14/15, the leading worldwide innovation competition in the fast-growing wearable technologies industry. One of its partners Heddoko, which has incorporated StretchSense technology into its 3D sensing sports body suit, was also being named a finalist in the Cup’s sports and fitness category.
Stretch sensor technology is the next breakthrough innovation in wearable technology, providing real-time precision information for soft objects. The sensors are worn on the body or on clothing and when a user moves, the sensor stretches, transmitting motion information to an app.
StretchSense has a platform enabling technology that is already being used by more than 80 customers in 15 countries who are incorporating its sensors in a wide range of applications in areas including healthcare, sports and motion capture. A consumer product has not yet been developed using its technology but StretchSense chief executive Ben O’Brien says several are at the prototype stage.
Founded in 2012 by O’Brien, Todd Gisby, and Iain Anderson, StretchSense is a spin-out company commercialising technology originally developed at the Biomimetics Laboratory at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.
O’Brien, who won the 2013 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize, says they saw a market opportunity early on for the technology and the rest of the world is now waking up to what stretch sensors have to offer.
Globally, wearable technologies is a rapidly emerging industry with key analysts predicting 2015 will be when wearable devices gain broad traction among consumers. Research from Kantar Media shows that the health and fitness wearable tech market in Great Britain will rise to an estimated 13.1 million users this year.
The winner of the WT Innovation World Cup will be announced at one of the world’s biggest wearable technology conferences, the WT Conference, being held in Germany early next month. StretchSense will use the event to launch a new sensing product that optimises sports and fitness applications which has been under development for the past year.
O’Brien said Germany was an important market because of its powerhouse position in the medical devices sector, an area which holds good potential for using stretch sensors. Other sectors being targeted by the company include animation, augmented reality, sport and prosthetics.
The company is already involved in incorporating its technology into an intelligent arm brace being created in a collaboration between University of Auckland bio-engineers and leading scientists at the Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer.
Last month StretchSense raised $500,000 in capital, with investors including Flying Kiwi Angels and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, which will be used for business development, increasing production capacity, and securing intellectual property. It has also had a $20,000 project grant from Callaghan Innovation and the Royal Society of New Zealand is funding a PhD student to work on developing a motional curve body suit.