When I stopped by in Seoul, I visited the Smart Content Center in Anyang (near Seoul) and had the opportunity to meet with some of the companies being incubated there. SmartCenter is a government-backed incubator created in 2011 to nurture local startups from start to finish. Its stated goal is to select and help grow startups from an idea to being a global corporation.
This time we met with three companies that work on very different products, mostly hardware. That’s a huge difference from just a couple of years ago where most startups were about apps and services. The companies are:
Radiance Lab is a company which works on heating solutions. Their product is Rakin, an outdoor blanket that has an internal heating system which can be powered by a simple 5V standard USB battery pack – the same one used for your smartphone. This is possible because the Radiance Lab heating system can perform its job using low-voltage and low-wattage. Because of that, it is inherently much safer than any counterpart that is powered by a higher-voltage source, let alone a wall socket at home.
The SFIM heating material which is proprietary to Radiance Lab is the foundation of all their products. It emits heat by generating Far Infra Red, which is a spectrum of infra-red closer to microwaves than to visible light. There are other 5V heating pads on the market, but their size is about 5x10cm, and that’s why Radiance Lab’s tech seems to interesting for consumer products. The company also produces healthcare/medical devices and is working on all kinds of power-efficient heating systems based on this tech.
WooRin’s product pitch was about an already released super-thin (<6mm) and light (<100g) keyboard called WeKey. It is true that the keyboard is really thin and light. More so that other keyboard, we’ve played with, including the Microsoft Folding keyboard. However, this is made possible by using a pressure sensitive membrane and PCB.
The keyboard in itself might be cool, but there are clear trade-offs when it comes to typing comfort. The more interesting aspect of this membrane technology is that its creator thinks that it is possible to use the same technology to build VR gloves that are sensitive enough to provide a good user experience. It would have to be associated with a force feedback technology, but WooRin’s founder thinks that it’s possible to get there and that products such as the keyboard are good intermediary steps to finance the technology’s development.
eCELL Electronics showed me their Smart Helmet for motorbike riders. It is smart in the sense that it integrates several popular tech options for helmets in one place, with a better user experience (UX). These functions are helmet cam (720p, 30fps), WiFi and BT communications with a smartphone (directions, music), wrist controller and helmet-based buttons.
I’ll assume that the helmet is protective like a regular helmet. For this, there are some certifications that a helmet company would need to pass before their product hits a local market. This helmet has passed them in Korea and “overseas, ” but I’m not 100% sure what overseas mean.
I like the idea because any aftermarket accessories will not be as well integrated. For example, the ultra wide (120 Deg) camera is pretty much invisible from the outside and very low-key. The downside is that you don’t have access to the latest optics like you would with a GoPro that sticks out.
All the audio and talkie-walkie functions are less sensitive to technological evolution because most of these are already “good enough” and will evolve slowly. The UX is key, with two buttons on either side of the helmet (where the ears would be) allow for easy actions such as muting the sound or sending a talkie-walkie message. Around the button, you have LED control lights that help with BT setup
The helmet can be charged while riding, which is a must since you don’t want to worry about battery life during long rides.