Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Woolet Smart Wallet Wins at Kickstarter


It’s no April Fool’s joke – the Woolet, a smart wallet from Poland, had surpassed its Kickstarter goal by over $312,000 when the campaign came to a close today.

As the crowdfunding campaign finished this afternoon, the Woolet had received $332,694 in funding from over 2,600 backers – that’s more than 2,000% of its original $15,000 goal. It’s safe to say that the Woolet, the smart wallet “you can never lose”, passed its Kickstarter market test with flying colors. But should it come as any surprise? The market of wearable devices is growing at a staggering pace, and is still only awaiting the debut of the Apple Watch.
Woolet makes use of Bluetooth low energy technology and tiny sensors to communicate with a free app on your smartphone. It’s a wallet that’s especially difficult to lose track of as it barks (literally) every time it gets out of range of the Bluetooth-enabled smartphone you synchronized it with. You can also use your Woolet to find your smartphone – and that’s just the beginning of its creators’ ambitions. Nearly 3,000 people liked the idea enough to pre-order the Woolet on Kickstarter, starting $99 a unit.

Interview with Woolet’s Bart Zimny

In the middle of his intensive and successful Kickstarter campaign, I had a chance to talk to Woolet’s co-founder Bart Zimny about his product’s origin and the amazing power and business potential of Bluetooth low energy and wearable devices.
Woolet co-founder Bart Zimny
Woolet co-founder Bart Zimny
Bitspiration: Woolet’s Kickstarter campaign is a great success, but you can’t really say that you didn’t expect it, or can you?
Bart Zimny: The preparations to the campaign lasted about three months prior to its kick off. It required a lot of work, effort and dedication from the whole Woolet team. When we came up with the idea of a barking wallet we were sure that it would be an amazing product with huge possibilities and a solid market. I can’t say we didn’t hope it would do great on Kickstarter. The thing that we definitely did not expect is that it would happen so fast… The $15,000 goal was achieved after only 1.5 days!
Wearable devices have been making headlines for the past few years, but it is now when they are really changing the landscape of consumer electronics – especially in conjunction with cloud-based apps. Woolet too has an app. What is it capable of?
BZ: First of all, the Woolet app enables you to pair devices (like the wallet and keyfinders) with your smartphone. Paired device can be found through a distance radar, or you can call your Woolet so it gives you a customizable‚ “woof” sound. You can set the preferred distance that will trigger the notification or temporarily turn it off in case you need to. Also, the last seen location of your item is pinned on the map to help you localize it. Last but not least – the app has a killer feature – crowd detection.
In case you lose your wallet you can mark it as a lost item, so other app users can help you find it.
Woolet 2.0 will have more cool features that will be announced in Q2/3.
Who do you target with Woolet? Is this more of a stylish gadget for those always in hurry, or something expected to become an everyday item? Does everyone need a smart wallet?
BZ: Currently we are targeting mostly gadget freaks; guys who want things in their closest environment to be innovative, smart and stylish at the same time. This group is considered as the early adopters, the narrow group that we decided to target first.
However, we definitely think that connected devices, wearables and IoT will become as common and needed as the Internet itself sooner rather than later.
We cannot imagine our everyday lives without it now, but in the beginning it was only targeting a confined group of consumers. We are expecting the same mechanism here. Everyone needs a wallet. We all live in a rush. Soon, it will be obvious that we all need a smart wallet, giving us the benefits and features that make our lives easier and safer.
Woolet offers a great sense of security and comfort, but aside from its Bluetooth-based capabilities, it is also supposed to be just a really well-designed slim and stylish wallet. Can a product such as the Woolet exist without a careful design, on its functionalities alone? How important is the design part?
BZ: I would say that the design is one of the keys to the Woolet’s success. If we consider the main rules driving the wearables boom, I would say that the products need to be smart and well designed. And it doesn’t mean that they have to just look good. It also means that they are convenient to use, comfortable to wear and have the features that will make a difference in your everyday life. This can only be achieved by combining innovative hardware with great design in one complete product. We believe that this is the case with Woolet. BTW, I cannot imagine that over 2,000 people would pre-order it if it were ugly…
Why does the Woolet go “woof”?
BZ: The idea for the name came from the comparison that one of us made during one of many brainstorms we had whilst working on this project. Imagine you walk your dog and want to drop by a supermarket. You leave your beloved pet outside, he is waiting for you patiently, waving his tail seeing you walking out. Somehow, you are so caught up in your thoughts, and busy with all the things around you, that you forget about the dog. What would he do? Well, he would definitely remind you about himself by “woofing”, and the story gets a happy ending. Now imagine your wallet could do the same! A woofing wallet easily translated into a “Woolet”.
Devices such as the Woolet are often referred to as a sign of times – busy times when we can’t really afford to think of everything. The devices are there to take some of that off our heads and make it all a bit easier. But in order to make that happen, Woolet has to be extremely reliable. How reliable is it really? The batteries, the sensors, the app – there seems to be a lot variables for the solution to work.
BZ: The technology used in Woolet is innovative, but it is based on years of developments made in the IT industry worldwide that has proven to be reliable and also very accurate. The possibility of building tiny, efficient chips, which need minimum amounts of energy to operate gives us almost endless possibilities. With the extra accurate sensors, allowing localization to +-5 cm, the rechargeable battery lasting two years and a very well tested app, we are confident that Woolet will give you the sense of security that is expected from a smart product, especially if it contains your credit cards and ID.
According to your website, Woolet’s cloud connectivity is also meant for third party programs. Is this an early announcement of future functionalities Woolet is going to have?
BZ: Yes, we are planning to make Woolet’s API available for developers. We want to involve the community in order to get the best out of our product, and making the API public is one way to do that. We are already discussing this with some potential partners, but at this stage I cannot reveal any specifics.
Woolet is the star of the show, but the Woolet ecosystem consists of more gadgets, such as a RFID blocking sleeve, a Woolet phone cover and the key finder said to be as capable as the Woolet. With Bluetooth low energy only creativity is the limit. Can we expect even more devices in the future?
BZ: Yes, we hope that the current offer is just the base for building a whole ecosystem of products from the Woolet family. We are planning to release new types of wallets, luggage items and more leather products for everyday use. We are also working on an induction charging mat that will allow Woolet owners to charge the battery of their products (needed after approximately two years of using them). As you mentioned, Bluetooth 4.0 technology gives us amazing possibilities, and we are constantly working on its best utilization. I am sure this will make the Woolet family grow in the near future, and we will bring more smart products to our clients.
You all come from a beacon and IoT background. One of your other project, Clime, involves tiny sensors capable of measuring all sorts of data. IoT is already changing the world. Where is Woolet’s place in this wearable and cloud-enabled world?
BZ: Indeed, the whole Woolet team has experience with IoT, gained both professionally and simply by being geeks hyped with every new smart gadget boom. This gives us even better understanding of what is really useful and what is just cool but most probably will be left in your drawer after a week. Which definitely will not be the case with Woolet.
The last thing you can say about a wallet is that it is a semi-useful thing. Almost everybody owns one. Making it safe, especially when it carries your credit cards, cash, ID and driving license, might be even considered as a priority. So I would say that Woolet might be one of the most useful or even needed wearables that were released recently. Because it gives you peace of mind – a pretty priceless feeling, it’s funny you can have it by purchasing a wallet…

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This is a repost of an article that appeared on bitspiration.com on April 2, 2015

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