Capitalizing on a Billion Dollar Market

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Canada-Israel Industrial Research & Development FoundationCapitalizing on a Billion Dollar Market

CIIRDF Helps to Catalyze Acquisition of Recon Instruments and Solidify Vancouver as a Tech Hotspot

Canadian Company: Recon Instruments

Israeli Company: Lifebeam

Sector: Wearable Technology

Opportunity

With the arrival of wearable technology in the world of sports, athletes are adding intelligent tools like smart eyewear, watches, and shoes to their training arsenal to improve their performance. These connected accessories feature combinations of sensors, electronics, computing power, and wireless technology. Dubbed ‘wearables’, these products gather, process, and share a host of information with the user—including heart rate, power output, speed, and cadence. Instant access to this data allows users to make educated decisions about their physical activity. The global wearable technology market is projected to grow to more than $6 billion by 20162. This lucrative opportunity prompted a Canadian-Israeli R&D team to pursue the development of novel wearable technology for athletes.

Objective

Initiated in 2013, this bilateral R&D project brought together:

  • Lifebeam, an Israeli firm that develops and manufactures the world’s most advanced wearable physiological sensors for measuring human performance; and
  • Recon Instruments, a Canadian world leader in smart eyewear technology for sports and high-intensity environments.

This Canadian-Israeli R&D team integrated Lifebeam sensors into early prototypes of Recon’s Jet smart eyewear for athletes, demonstrating that heart rate could be measured directly from the user’s temple during intense physical activity. The ability to see heart rate data on the Recon Jet display allowed users to train more safely and optimize their performance. While heart rate data can be tracked using dedicated chest- or wrist-mounted sensors, the ability to measure this data directly from the head of a user offers many advantages. This approach eliminates the need to wear a separate measurement device, reduces the latency of the displayed data (by removing the need for a wireless connection between the sensor and the smart eyewear), and offers athletes a single, integrated device that truly does it all.

Outcomes

Following the completion of an initial prototype in 2014, Recon and Lifebeam confirmed the ability of the head-worn sensor to record highly accurate heart rate data. As the prototype trial concluded, Recon was already committed to its first hardware design for Jet. This design shipped in early 2015 and did not include Lifebeam sensors. However, the trial validated Lifebeam’s consumer-oriented sensor technology and expedited the expansion of Lifebeam’s consumer product portfolio, including head-mounted heart rate sensing integrated in cycling helmets, hats, and visors. This collaborative R&D demonstrated the feasibility of integrating head-mounted heart rate sensors into future smart eyewear products.

In June 2015, Intel Corporation announced the acquisition of Recon Instruments, with the intention of jointly expanding the market for head-mounted display products and technologies. Recon products continue to be sold under the Recon brand name, and the team will remain in Vancouver, BC.

“This CIIRDF project enabled us to validate our world-class sensor technology in partnership with the leader in smart eyewear for sports. This creates an invaluable opportunity to establish our brand with early adopters of wearable technology among athletes, and generate new revenue streams. Building on the outcomes of this collaboration, we expect to grow our team by 20 percent over the next two years, and pursue additional applications for our biotechnology.”

Omri Yoffe, CEO, Lifebeam

“Recon Instruments was the first company in the world to develop smart eyewear tailored to the needs of the athlete, and we are constantly pushing the boundaries to better fit the active lifestyles of our customers. Data-driven athletes view heart rate monitors as a necessary evil. The data is immensely helpful in optimizing their training, but the chest strap itself is annoying. When Lifebeam suggested a CIIRDF-facilitated project to address this customer pain point, we jumped on it. With CIIRDF’s non-dilutive funding and project management support, we developed a working prototype and demonstrated the ability to acquire accurate heart rate measurements from the user’s head. CIIRDF’s vote of confidence also helped Recon to secure additional investment during the critical development period of Recon Jet, the product that convinced Intel to initiate its acquisition of Recon. As an Intel company, we will remain in Vancouver, BC and gain access to the invaluable resources, technology, and expertise of the world’s most successful semiconductor company. This will significantly accelerate our development efforts, expand our reach into new sports and activities, and enable new enterprise and public sector uses. It also allows us to further establish Vancouver as a Canadian technology hotspot. CIIRDF played a significant role in helping us achieve this success, and the associated impact on our local economy.”

Rudi Airisto, Head of Business Development and App Ecoystem Recon Instruments