Just about every major tech company, like Apple and Microsoft, has some sort of wearable computer. Caeden, a wearableÂ tech start-up, thinks that with most of these smartwatches and fitness accessories, an important first step was skipped: They donât look like something youÂ wouldÂ want to wear.
On Tuesday, the one-year-old company is opening orders for Sona, its smart bracelet. The bracelet includes the usual sensors you would find on a fitness gadget for counting steps, but also a heart rate sensor that can measure overall health and stress levels.
From a business perspective, you might wonder why any start-up would even bother to make a wearable at this point, given the big brands that are already fighting for a foothold in the market. Apple is deeply invested in its Apple Watch, and Microsoft last year introduced Microsoft Band, a connected wristband. Samsung offers a variety of smartwatches and Facebook’s Oculus has developed virtual-reality headgear.
But to Nora Levinson, Caeden’s chief executive, the wearable market is still in a “beta phase,” and there is plenty of room to compete. Like other companies’ wearables, theÂ SonaÂ is intended to be a useful fitness tracker for improving mental and physical health, but one key difference is it looks like a leather bracelet that people wear as a fashion accessory rather than a gadget.
“We focused not only on designing a beautiful piece of jewelry, but also on incorporating advanced heart sensor technology that gives a more well-rounded picture of overall health,” Ms. Levinson said.
Other tech companies have tried hard to push their wearables into the fashion market, but have gained little traction. Intel, the chip maker, last year teamed up with the fashion brand Open Ceremony to make a smart bracelet called Mica that looks like jewelry, but its sales were limited exclusively to Barneys and Open Ceremony’s retail outlets. Intel is trying again; it recently teamed up with TAG Heuer to introduce a smartwatch priced at $ 1,500.
In my testing of a Sona prototype, the leather band fit comfortably around my wrist. It includes metal hardware; the sensors sit on the underside of the leather band so they are not visible when the bracelet is worn.
The Sona works with an iPhone app, which shows a live graph illustrating your heart rate patterns, using a metric called heart rate variability to measure stress. While doing breathing exercises, my graph showed I maintained a steady, mellow heart-rate pattern, though my heart rate appeared to fluctuate, indicating stress, when I noticed a woman at a cafe watching me test the pink version of the bracelet.
Before founding Caeden last year, Ms. Levinson and the company’s co-founder, David Watkins, worked together at several design-savvy product companies including Jawbone, Incase and Skullcandy. The company closed a $ 1.6 million round of funding in April. The Sona bracelet, which costs $ 129, begins shipping in April.