It’s 9 pm, and all you want to do is sit on the couch. Before settling in, you click through the stats on your fitness tracker. Steps count: 9,898. Now your pre-relaxation plans involve walking around the coffee table at least a dozen times.
Sound familiar? Most fitness fanatics recognize the guilt trip sparked by that 10,000 steps-per-day count. Eventually, the game grows old. While early adopters of the technology continue to use and love their devices, many people lose interest and retire their uncomfortable wrist wearables to the junk drawer. The team at Motiv, one of San Francisco’s hottest startups, sought to build something better for people looking to get and stay fit.
“We wanted to create a truly wearable wearable,” says Motiv CEO Tejash Unadkat. “If people aren’t wearing their device 24/7, they aren’t getting the maximum utility from the product.”
A holistic approach to health
Thinner than two nickels, lighter than a penny and custom-sized to fit any finger, the titanium Motiv ring fitness trackers have mastered the art of blending in. The silver, black and rose gold finishes deliver subtle stylishness. Co-founder Curt von Badinski has described the sleek design as the “anti-Super Bowl ring.”
The rings support their good looks with substance, including a three-day battery life and waterproof capabilities at up to 165 feet. Customers also rave that the ring can be worn to bed without causing discomfort or accidentally injuring a partner during a restless night’s sleep.
Motiv reports activity, sleep and heart rate through its app, which displays the info as a daily feed for both iOS and Android users. Many smartwatches and fitness trackers focus on steps. Why look to active minutes and recovery instead? To give wearers a holistic view of their health—and minimize those silly late-night walks around the coffee table.
“Counting steps is good and can be a fun way to compete with friends, but from a health perspective, it doesn’t do much for you,” Unadkat says. “You want to know how much time you spent getting your heart rate up. Active minutes give more meaningful insights.”
From wrist to ring
Getting a ring-sized tracker to market was an epic feat. There’s a reason most companies shy away from devices that fit a finger, Unadkat says: They are incredibly challenging to fund and even harder to build.
Enter von Badinski, a tech innovator who has been miniaturizing different electronics for more than a decade. Four years ago, he decided he wasn’t interested in competing with wrist wearable companies that took laptop components, slapped them onto some form of a rubber band and sold them as fitness trackers. If the tracker was a ring, he reasoned, people would wear it all the time.
Many venture capital companies didn’t believe the project could succeed. The technology simply didn’t exist. Undeterred, von Badinski called in reinforcements to bring his germinated idea to market. Peter Twiss worked on the equipment, Mike Strasser focused on design and Eric Strasser contributed expertise in marketing. From a flexible circuit board to miniature sensors, every single component had to be custom made, but in September 2017, the four co-founders brought the first iteration of the Motiv ring to the masses.
Going beyond health data
Having already created numerous sensors and hardware components from scratch, the team set its sights on increasing the trackers’ functionality. The next generation of trackers debuted in October 2018 with new security features.
The most impressive feature is that Motiv rings can confirm your identity by recognizing your gait. Because the company has been collecting walking data since the beginning, it has enough data to distinguish the wearer’s unique walk from others’. If the ring is lost or stolen, others won’t be able to access the account.
Motiv rings let wearers create a simple gesture that acts as a signature in a two-step authentication process. Based on the gesture, the ring can confirm your identity before logging into an Amazon account or other website. Motiv also has partnerships with Apple Health, Alexa and Google Fit, so wearers can maximize their wellness efforts.
“We designed the ring to give you a holistic view of what you’ve done, while offering the security to make you feel safe,” Unadkat says.
Wearables by the numbers
Wristwear devices are the most popular wearable. Some 170 million wristwear devices are projected to be shipped worldwide in 2020.
However, while early adopters have fallen for smartwatches, these and other traditional wearables aren’t nearly as popular with consumers as once anticipated. Early estimates projected 63.7 million American adults would wear a wearable device (with internet connectivity) at least once a month in 2017. That forecast was later slashed to 39.5 million American adults.