WayWearable blends IoT and skincare analytics in hardware push
By Gabey Goh July 8, 2015
- Wearable tech provides personalised, real-time skincare advice
- Different set of challenges and complications for a hardware startup
JASON Moon’s previous startup Design Your Body, which produced content about health, attracted a large female audience and in the course of his research into why this was the case, he discovered something.
“I became fascinated with the vibrancy of online communities that focused on beauty, yet there was minimal application of technology in the industry.
“I realised that the Internet of Things (IoT) could provide a solution to many beauty concerns and founded WayWearable to explore this opportunity,” the chief executive officer tells Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
WayWearable, a South Korea-based ‘beauty tech’ startup founded in December 2014, has created a smart device called Way, which it describes as being able to provide personalised, real-time skincare advice throughout the day.
The portable device – the size of a compact powder case – analyses a user’s skin condition and provides a diagnosis in three seconds.
It is also designed to measure air moisture levels and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. If the air is dry, the device sends tips to its related smartphone application, such as informing its user to moisturise.
If the UV index is high, the smartphone application sends quantitative data to the user and suggests practical actions that he or she can take to prevent skin damage, such as “wear sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes.”
Moon admits that much of this technology already exists in other formats, but argued that the WayWearable team has either miniaturised or in some other way adapted it for use in the Way device.
“For example, we use BIA (bio-electrical impedance analysis) to determine the moisture content and oil content of the skin, and the technology has many other applications.
“We believe that there is no other device currently being developed for the consumer market which provides as detailed a range of analysis as Way, and provides beauty tips on the go,” he declares.
WayWearable also collaborated with Yonsei University’s Bioelectric Impedance Analysis Department to further develop existing InBody technology, which uses electronic signals to determine the water and oil content of skin – a key element in the Way device.
“The toughest challenge was developing the skin diagnosis sensor on our own. The team, which includes a dermatologist and engineers, worked really hard to overcome the challenges of developing the solution, which could fit into a small portable device,” says Moon.
In addition, the software which performs the analysis and provides beauty tips has been developed entirely in-house.
Moon, who majored in economics at Yonsei University, teamed up with Dr Gana Oh, a professional dermatologist based in Gangnam, to develop the solution.
The team’s other founder and chief technology officer Harry Kim has a background in hardware and software development, as well as experience in IT consulting and marketing with IT giant Hewlett-Packard.
Getting things underway
WayWearable was also accepted into South Korean business accelerator SparkLabs in March as part of its fifth batch of startups, to bring its technology to market.
According to Moon, SparkLabs has an established track record for helping hardware startups reach their potential, by connecting them to leading OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for partnership deals, as well as helping them raise essential funding to realise the demands of mass producing hardware products.
“WayWearable is the first time I have built a hardware business. While it has been interesting doing something new, there has been a whole range of added complications and difficulties that we’ve had to face, compared with my previous experience in software.
“With software, the build process as well as distribution and sales are much simpler, and costs are much lower.
“Also, with a hardware business, manufacture is a major obstacle which many startups never manage to solve, meaning that most hardware projects actually never see the light of day.
“Getting over these issues has taken a monumental effort and has been made possible thanks to finding the right team and partners to work with.
“I’ve realised that building a great hardware product requires much more than just great technology. In fact, success relies on the people involved,” he says.
To date, WayWearable has raised US$500,000 in venture funding from Koisra Seed Partners, Albatross Investment, and SparkLabs.
The alpha prototype of the device was completed in April of this year and in May, an Indiegogo campaign was launched to crowdfund an additional US$50,000 to manufacture the first 1,000 units and kick off marketing activities.
The campaign closed on June 29, and the team was able to raise US$121,557 from 652 interested funders.
Moon says that skincare is a universal interest, hence WayWearable’s decision to launch the service globally via Indiegogo, with the intention of localising the service based on user data.
“We also intend to leverage advanced skincare methods and products from Korea to global consumers, at a time when the Korean skincare market is seeing huge growth – along with many Korean skincare brands finding global success.
“It’s a great time to enter this market with a product that will help consumers negotiate the myriad of choices in the market and improve their beauty regimen, while saving costs through more informed product choices,” he adds.
Citing figures from Euromonitor International’s 2016 beauty and personal care market forecast, Moon says WayWearable is looking to enter a global market worth around US$490 billion, across skincare and the IoT.
Building the way forward
Delivery of the first batch of Way devices is scheduled to begin in October, with a target of fulfilling all orders by November being the core focus of the team for the year.
Moon says that WayWearable will also be working on promoting the use of the skincare device, educating the market on its benefits, and selling Way, which will retail at a recommended price of US$120.
“There are several different avenues we are considering for revenue in the future, but the business opportunity we will be focusing on in the short term is sales of the device.
“We also think there’s potential for a wide range of paid services as our analysis algorithms are further developed.
“Opportunities include skincare box subscriptions, with products curated based on our customers’ unique skin condition.
“We are also considering a structure whereby we take a commission from selling skincare products on our platform,” he says.
The Way device is not alone in the beauty tech category, with a number of existing products that can analyse skin condition, and others that monitor atmospheric conditions.
There’s Magic Mirror by Panasonic, which allows consumers to see transparent overlays on top of their own images, and the mirror can make suggestions for beauty tips based on their faces.
June by Netamo measures exposure to the sun throughout the day, with users receiving real-time advice on how to protect themselves from the sun.
There is also Sencenara, which is a standalone BIA skin analyser.
“However, Way is the first service of its kind to be both affordable and practical for daily use,” claims Moon.
“It is also a mobile-based solution that combines the two sets of analysis and uses the data to create actionable tips, delivered in real time to a connected device,” he adds when asked about the product’s differentiation.
The goal for 2016 is to accumulate big data on environments and skin by using Way’s skincare service.
“Using that big data, we will be developing products that consumers need, and then recommend adequate skincare products according to each consumer’s skin conditions,” Moon says.
Asked about what the biggest challenge has been with getting WayWearable off the ground, Moon says that building a strong team is one of the most important and challenging things – something that holds true for any entrepreneur.
“It is incredibly difficult to attract strong team members as a very small startup, but I believe that it is essential for success. Your team is everything in a startup, even more important than the product,” he adds.
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