It’s getting easier to get smart.
Spire expanded beyond its Spire Stone respiration and stress tracker and introduced a new health-tracking device that adheres to apparel, turning any look into a smart garment.
On the outside, the unassuming, stick-on Spire Health Tag could be mistaken for an ultrasuede-covered security device. But inside, the flexible, washable unit houses a processor and custom sensors that track activity, sleep, heart rate and heart-rate variability information.
“It makes it so easy to make clothing smart, without having to change anything about the design,” said founder Jonathan Palley.
Packing a lot of technology in a low-profile shell, his team paid careful attention to the details. Doctors, data scientists, manufacturing and adhesive experts and sensor and electrical engineers — who come from the likes of Apple and Qualcomm — worked on everything from glue formulation to battery optimization (the cell battery lasts from one-and-a-half to two years).
Spire’s smart technology intelligently dumbs down the irritating or complicated parts of the connected fitness or health experience. The result is a “stick it on and forget it” proposition that eschews complexity and constant recharging.
What it delivers is health tracking at a much more granular level than what today’s smartphones can provide. “We collect 50 times more data, both in variety and depth, than you can get off your phone,” Palley said.
The tech is sold directly to consumers in packs of three, eight or 15, with prices ranging from $99 to $299.
On the software side, partners can create custom mobile experiences for their clientele using Spire’s APIs, or “application programming interfaces.” These developer tools let outside companies integrate with Spire’s software, and they were designed — much like the hardware product — for adaptability and simplicity. Apparel companies “don’t need to have a massive development team,” said Palley. “We’ve made it easier for them.”
Users can track their data in Spire’s iPhone app for now, though an Android version will be available soon. The mobile app works like a platform unto itself: It can prioritize certain types of information, depending on the partner, and aesthetically match branding. Those data points can also flow outside the app to, say, plug into a partner’s own apps, work with its chatbots, or otherwise offer insights into when and how customers wear specific clothes.
For instance, Palley said a sleepwear company could offer Spire-enabled pajamas, as well as granular sleep metrics. Likewise, an athletic brand could focus on activity and fitness tracking. With machine learning algorithms, Spire can analyze how factors like sleep, activity and respiration influence consumers’ well-being.
The strategy is ambitious, and according to Palley, it has been years in the making. Spire introduced its first product in 2014, the Spire Stone respiration and activity tracker. The Stone’s niche focus on chronic stress and anxiety was a lightning rod for doctors and researchers. But the start-up founder said, “We actually have more than a thousand healthcare professionals worldwide recommending it.”
Backed by Y Combinator, Rock Health, Stanford StartX, and other medical tech investors, Spire pulled in $10 million in its latest round of funding last year, and so far, the company has grossed more than $8 million. Whether its Health Tag will breath even more life into its revenues could hinge on whether apparel makers embrace the technology.
Palley is in talks with major labels across a variety of specialties, though he’s not ready to name them.
“Wearables, as people think about them, have some fundamental user experience problems that start with the name — it’s something else to wear,” he said. “Our view is that wearables have to disappear. You should just wear your clothes.”