The World's First Smart Shoes
You’ve heard of smart phones and smart watches. But what about smart shoes?
That’s the concept behind SmartFoam’s first creation. This company is targeting the $17 billion global market for smart wearables by transforming ordinary foam padding into intelligent tracking material. Its first product, SmartSteps, takes your existing shoe soles and integrates them with data-producing sensors.
By tracking literally every step you take, SmartSteps goes beyond the capabilities of any fitness tracker or smart wearable on the market. Not only does it record your activity and fitness habits, but it also keeps track of your balance, coordination, and gait — metrics that have been proven to predict signs of life-threatening diseases.
SmartFoam began work on SmartSteps in 2016, and all stages of development, including testing, sourcing, and production readiness, are complete. The only step left is to bring its product to market and target the market for smart wearables.
As mentioned, this is a huge market. Roughly 1 in every 5 Americans owns a smart watch or fitness tracker. But despite their popularity, wearables like these aren’t an ideal option for every consumer.
For one, they’re expensive. 72% of consumers decided not to purchase a wearable because of cost. For another, they’re inaccurate. 10% of all activity is lost in activity trackers due to inaccuracy.
Furthermore, a lot of wearables don’t have a long battery life. This is a critical feature, as 64% of consumers say battery life is an important factor in deciding which wearable to purchase.
But why purchase expensive, inaccurate wearables when sensors are already all around you? That’s what SmartFoam’s SmartSteps offers.
Essentially, its sensors turn mechanical energy into electrical energy, enabling them to measure activity, fitness levels, and health metrics. Steps generate signals when compressed, creating an activity tracking sensor that is connected directly to a mobile app or smart device.
SmartSteps can measure steps, “active” minutes, distance, and calories. Users can track their progress toward daily goals and earn badges. Notably, SmartSteps never need to be charged.
Because SmartSteps are integrated with data-producing sensors, they exceed traditional wearables in terms of accuracy and obtain more vital information — everything from balance and symmetry to a person’s gait (changes in gait have been proven to predict signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia a full 10 years before any cognitive symptoms are apparent).
Once on the market, SmartFoam will sell its SmartSteps through partner retailers. Data will be presented through a freemium mobile app.
The free tier will have basic functionality with ads, the mid-tier removes ads for a monthly fee, and the premium tier has access to additional features and functions. SmartFoam may also generate revenue through anonymous data sales.
Beyond footwear, SmartFoam has started to explore integrating its sensors into foam-based products such as fitness and yoga mats, furniture, bedding, and automotive parts. Earlier this year, the company developed a multi-sensor yoga mat prototype.
Wei has 20 years of experience with R&D of advanced and novel materials.
Prior to his time with SmartFoam, he was a technical leader with Guangzhou Hua Opto-electronics, a China-based company created flexible smart sensors for apparel. Before that, he was a senior engineer with Polyradiant Corp, a consumer electronics business.
Earlier in his career, Wei spent eight years as a research associate and Post-doctorate researcher at UCLA. He earned his Ph.D. from UCLA, as well as a Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Tennessee.
Peter is an expert in areas including energy storage, biometrics, data encryption, and biomedical devices.
In addition to his role with SmartFoam, he is Director of Platform Technologies with NextWave Ventures, a venture capital firm. Prior to this, he was a technology consultant for various venture capital and private equity firms.
Earlier in his career, he was Director of Imprimatur Capital, an international early-stage venture capital firm. Before that, he was a project manager and systems project manager with Advanced System Architectures, a technology company.
Peter holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Leicester, a Ph.D. in Laser Physics from Southampton, and an MBA from Cranfield University.
Jennifer has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and business development. She specializes in health, fitness, and consumer packaged goods sectors.
Prior to SmartFoam, she was a business development advisor for TRAQ, a technology company developing biosensors to measure health and wellness in saliva. Before that, she spent seven years with Illinois Tool Works, an automotive parts business, directing their marketing and sales efforts.
Earlier in her career, she was a senior product manager with Intel, a computer manufacturer. Prior to that, she was a product manager with Ford Motor Company, focusing on marketing efforts.
Jennifer earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Notre Dame.
David joined SmartFoam in 2019 after a 20-year career with Jabil, one of America’s largest manufacturing companies. While there, he was Vice President of Operations and General Manager.
Earlier in his career, he was General Manager of Sterling Plastics, a small business focused on injection molding. Before that, he was a sales manager with Dana Holding Corporation, an automotive parts retailer.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Studies from Duke University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
A VC firm investing in early-stage technology companies.