Forget Fitbit: these 8 Chicago companies are taking wearables to the next level

July 25, 2016

Though the term “wearables” tends to conjure up images of smartwatches and Fitbits, those devices only represent a fraction of the innovation going on in the wearables vertical. Companies are constantly finding new ways to use connected technology to make the world safer, more efficient or simply more convenient. From finding lost children to helping the blind see, here are eight Chicago companies who use wearables in new and innovative ways.


Hospital-acquired infections are a major cause of complications and increasing healthcare costs around the world. To aid healthcare providers in combating the spread of infectious disease, SwipeSense makes wearable badges and sensor-equipped hand hygiene dispensers that promote and monitor compliance with hygienic best practices.

Losing track of your children in a crowded public space is just about every parent’s worst nightmare. Having recently emerged from stealth mode as a member of the summer 2016 class of Techstars Chicago, Jio is working on a coin-sized, waterproof device designed to blend into kids’ everyday clothing and help parents keep track of where they are.


Ironically, the importance of connecting with the right people at conferences can often lead to attendees spending an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones frantically trying to figure out who’s who. After answering a few quick questions, users of Proxfinity’s event networking wearable can identify people they need to meet by their lit-up badges, leaving more time for interacting with kindred spirits face to face.


For the visually impaired, walking around in unfamiliar places can be dangerous. To assist them in getting around more easily, Chicago startup SpiderSense designed a sensor-equipped jacket that finds obstacles in the wearer’s path with echolocation. When an object or wall is detected, one of the jacket’s 12 sensors vibrate to indicate the direction from which it is approaching, giving the wearer a chance to stop or change directions.


Workout enthusiasts and athletes have been using devices like heart rate monitors and GPS watches for decades, but the emergence of smaller, more practical gadgets has brought fitness trackers into the mainstream. Rithmio wants to bring exercise analytics to the next level with multi-sensor capabilities and software that gets to learn its user’s form, tracking reps, workout efficiency and progress over time automatically.


Designed with patients suffering from chronic disease in mind, 4D Healthware’s care platform captures real-time data from wearables, wireless scales and other connected devices. Based on that input and the patient’s medical history, 4D’s software makes personalized care plan recommendations for patients and keep healthcare providers in the loop when patients find themselves in need of intervention or guidance.


A pioneer in the flexible electronics industry, Polyera is currently putting the final touches on the world’s first wearable to feature a truly bendable screen. The company’s Wove Bend wristband, whose technological underpinnings have been under development for more than a decade, will feature a touchscreen several times larger than any of its competitors, giving developers and designers all kinds of room to experiment with new features.


Alongside its cloud-based solution for tracking medical records, veterinary bills and pictures in one place, Figo Pet Insurance has partnered with a GPS tracking manufacturer to offer wearables for your pet. That way you can keep track of your furry friend’s movements and set up alerts for when it jumps the fence or ventures outside the neighborhood.


Images via listed companies.

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