A Nashville company has created new wearable technology – one of the hottest tech sectors in 2014 – with a focus on industry, rather than consumers.
XOEye Technologies, led by CEO Aaron Salow, developed a set of tech-infused glasses for manufacturing, field services and construction sectors, allowing workers to use their eyes to perform job functions that currently require their hands.
While Google Glass has established a foothold in the wearable tech eyewear niche, it has focused largely on the consumer market. XOEye, meanwhile, is targeting businesses that have an immediate use for its machine diagnostic and scanning services.
"Think Google Glass for industry," Salow said. "We are building something robust for people that need real solutions."
Imagine a baggage handler who no longer has to raise luggage to the hand scanner, but can simply look at the bar code, saving time and reducing the risk of injury. Or similarly, imagine a package deliverer who can scan a package to confirm delivery or capture signatures hands-free, saving time and hassle on a daily route.
Another part of XOEye's technology is its cloud-based vision software. The glasses includes camera and audio components that allow technicians in the field to discuss troubleshooting solutions in real-time with those who can view the problems from a company office. Experts can see remotely what the onsite technician sees and hears and advise accordingly.
2014 has been called the year of wearables, evidenced by the enthusiasm generated around new wearable products introduced at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January. In addition to Google Glass, other companies have focused on innovating within health and fitness, for example, offering wristband and watches that monitor activity and vital signs.
The wearable technology market is likely to takeoff first within industries and their specific needs, according to Bryant Harland, a technology analyst for Mintel in Chicago.
"Right now the market is actually fairly small," Harland said. "(On the consumer side,) not everyone is sure what they are supposed to do with all these products yet, whereas for companies that can really identify a specific use case and solve a problem, they can build the interest."
XOEye developed beginning in 2010 when Salow's father, Chris Salow, considered what his pastor saw when he looked out over the church congregation. Chris and Aaron Salow had previously created Peak Manufacturing, a supplier of bearing spacers in Pleasant Lake, Mich., and began thinking about how an eyewear product could be used in the manufacturing field.
They have since invested $3.2 million into the product and the company is working on piloting the glasses with about 30 companies, ranging from those generating $50 million in revenue to Fortune 500 or Fortune 100 businesses. The eyewear product will be released officially this summer, at $499, and XOEye is meanwhile seeking to raise $1.5 million from outside investors.
XOEye partnered with eyewear maker Pivothead to develop the product. The glasses are certified safety goggles, which gives them an edge among competitors, Salow said.
Salow, a graduate of both Trevecca Nazarene Unversity and Belmont University, moved XOEye to Nashville in February, seeing benefits in its proximity to manufacturing, construction and airline industries and its potential to attract new hires. The company has eight employees, and Salow said he is hoping to hire as many as 15 more in the next 18 months.
"We feel strongly about this city and the tech hub its becoming and we want to continue to grow in it," Salow said. "With an hour-long flight or a few hours in a car, we can service, warranty, upsell or sell to a huge group of people."
Reach Jamie McGee at 615-259-8071 or on Twitter @JamieMcGee_.