Verily, the Alphabet subsidiary and Google's sister company focused on life sciences, is searching for partners willing to join them in development of smart footwear, according to a recent report by CNBC citing unnamed industry insiders “familiar with the project.” Verily’s vision is to create a pair of smart shoes capable of monitoring weight and movement with the added benefit of detecting falls, and over the past few months, the company had showcased a prototype behind closed doors in an attempt to find partners for the product’s co-development and eventual market release.
Smart wearables capable of detecting falls can be very useful particularly for elders, but so far this technology has largely been used by wearable devices such as smart bands and fitness trackers. Likewise, the VR and AR markets have also looked into adopting these sensors for different reasons other than healthcare, particularly for improving movement detection and user immersions. As far as the health segment is concerned, embedding these types of sensors into footwear - or smart clothing, in general - can prove more convenient because users would have one less wearable to worry about while keeping their wrists free for other types of devices.
But whether Verily will manage to create a commercially-viable product in the form of a smart shoe remains to be seen, as according to the source, it’s unclear if the project is still being developed. Verily has looked for partners in private meetings but at the moment it is unknown whether any outside firms or developers who have witnessed the prototype first-hand have decided to join Alphabet’s subsidiary in their vision.
Verily has been developing numerous health-related projects since 2014, back when the company was known as Google Life Services and operated as a Google X subsidiary before being restructured into Alphabet near the end of 2015. Most of these projects seem to be in development still, but one project, in particular, was put on hold last November. It involved contact lenses designed to detect the wearer’s glucose levels. Although this wearable has been shelved, for now, the company has developed other solutions for people living with diabetes, including miniaturized continuous glucose monitors which were co-developed with California-based Dexom.
Last month, Verily announced that it received $1 billion from outside investment through American private equity firm Silver Lake. These funds will be used for building new strategic partnerships and potentially for new acquisitions. A strategic partnership is what Verily seems to be searching for the co-development of its smart shoes, but the company has yet to make any official announcements on the matter so it remains to be seen how this new endeavor pans out.
The wearable market seems to be growing in popularity every year, and according to a paper published by Research and Markets last year, the segment could continue to grow to accommodate around 289 million wearable products by 2023. This includes a variety of product categories including smartwatches as well as smart clothing. Other companies looking to develop smart footwear include LG Electronics, who recently acquired a patent for a pair of smart shoes capable of monitoring steps with the help of a gyro and pressure sensors.