People in India will be the first in the world to get access to what could be the next big thing in wearable technology: the smartshoe. Ducere Technologies Pvt., an Indian startup, is going to start selling its Bluetooth enabled Lechal shoes for more than $100 a pair in September. The smartshoes sync up with a smartphone app that uses Google maps and vibrate to tell users when and where to turn to reach their destination.
Just tell your phone where you want to go and then you can leave it in your pocket because the buzzing in your left or right shoe will lead the way.
Ducere was started by two Indian engineers who had studied and worked in the U.S. in 2011 and has grown to 50 employees in the city of Secunderabad in the newly-formed southern Indian state of Telengana.
“The shoes are a natural extension of the human body,” said Krispian Lawrence, 30, co-founder and chief executive officer of the company. “You will leave your house without your watch or wristband, but you will never leave your house without your shoes.”
Mr. Lawrence used his experience as a former U.S. patent prosecutor to get 24 international and Indian patents connected to his company’s vibrating shoes.
Ducere had initially developed the shoes–with the name Lechal which in Hindi means “take me along”– to help the blind who rely on walking canes.
While the cane can help the visually impaired detect obstacles, it cannot tell them which way to face or when to turn. “That’s where we come in and fill the void,” Mr. Lawrence said.
There are around 285 million visually-impaired people in the world, according to the World Health Organization, and most of them are in India.
While testing the shoes, the company realized its potential for the sighted as well. For example joggers, mountain bikers or even tourists can plug in their destinations and not have to stop to check their phones as they move because the buzzing in their shoes will let them know when to turn.
The shoes can be used as a more accurate way to record distance traveled and calories burnt, said Mr. Lawrence.
The shoes and the removable insoles are designed and developed in India, but manufactured in China. The shoes and inserts will come in red or black and be priced between $100 and $150. They will hit select stores in September, Mr. Lawrence said. He already has orders for 25,000 pairs and expects to sell 100,000 by March.
The company, which is backed by three angel investors, is now looking to raise an additional $4 million to $5 million to market its products, Mr. Lawrence said. He declined to disclose the names of angel investors or the amount they invested.
Ducere is also tying up with non-profit organizations and eye institutes to sell Lechal products to the visually challenged at a more affordable price.