Just as its name implies elevation, Spire wound up on top for this year’s People’s Design Award at the National Design Awards.

The wearable device is an activity tracker for the body and mind that monitors and analyzes breathing patterns in real time to gauge levels of focus and tension. Spire cofounder and chief executive officer Jonathan Palley picked up the prize with his fiancée, Zhao Zhao, an up-and-coming Beijing architect who designed the sleek device. Flagged as “a mini yogi in your pocket” Spire will retail for $150 when it hits stores, including potentially the Apple stores.

The San Francisco-based Spire relies on a team of experts who specialize in the respiratory system, digital health and medical/wellness devices. The device is currently being sold on the company’s Web site. The concept borrows from the ancient premise that breathing offers understanding and insight into the mind, Palley said. 

Progressive as Spire is, Zhao Zhao has no plans to give up her day job in Beijing. And why would she? Zhao Zhao was the lead designer for Beijing’s 538,000-square-foot CaoMei Convention Center, as well as more than 50 percent of the city’s newest planning, including “Future Technology City.”

Before setting up her own firm, Dada Architects, in 2007, Zhao Zhao was part of the core team of designers that envisioned Sanya’s Phoenix Island (better known as China’s Dubai), the Venetian Casino in Macau (the fifth-largest building in the world) and the Olympic Convention Center in Beijing. With the couple’s work schedules in overdrive, they understandably still have to figure out a wedding date.

Thanking Thursday’s NDA crowd, Palley pointed to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak as an example of a world health crisis that deserves the teamwork of technologists and designers. In an interview Friday, he said, “In this ever-increasingly global world health crisis, there has to be the ability to do something about it with the combination of design and technology. Design creates things that delight people and that’s a very important part of creating health [oriented] technology,” he said. “When you look at the fact that everyone has mobile phones, there is a lot to be done in this field.”

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