Polar Smart Ring – Werring spills the beans (CEO) – Another “Powered by Polar” Incoming?

polar icon logoPolar Smart Ring – Werring spills the beans (CEO) – Another Powered by Polar Incoming?

In an interview last week with Techradar, Polar’s CEO (Werring) let slip that Polar considers a smart ring and other form factors as potential additions to its sports and wellness ecosystem.

It’s difficult, or actually confidential, to talk about our product roadmap into the future. And being so long in this market means that we consider any and every form factor possible. But similar to what we just discussed about Sennheiser, it is not necessary that the vehicle for those solutions needs to be owned by Polar. If there’s an infrastructure – and it might be a ring, it might be something else – which could be powered by Polar, it’s not something we exclude. [S. Werring, CEO. Polar]

Background

Polar moved back from the cycling market a few years ago to focus on its core offering of sports and wellness technology built upon heart rate analytics. The Finnish company has a good range of watches for runners, triathletes, adventurers and for the general fitness/gym market plus two heart rate chest straps and an optical HR armband.

Those are all hard markets in which to find and exploit a profitable niche. Polar and its comparable competitor, Suunto, both seek to compete in the mid-market and the higher-margin, upper end of the market by using premium materials. Suunto focuses more on the adventurers and Polar more on the runners, yet the former has moved to open up its environment to extra features via its Suunto PLUS app store. Polar hasn’t or can’t yet do that.

In the mid-section of the market there is huge competition for sports watches with the situation getting trickier by the year as Chinese companies sew up their domestic sports tech market, growing India seeks to do the same and global Apple makes smartwatches ever more competent at tracking sport. It’s hard for Polar.

Polar knows that and has considered ways to extract value from the assets it already has. So the company pleasantly surprised us in recent months with its licencing moves. Firstly it licenced some of its sports physiology algorithms to Casio and second, it licensed access to Polar Flow via some Sennheiser sports headphones (with built-in HR).

To complete the picture we need to look further afield to more novel form factors and see a massive growth in smart rings, with millions being sold by Oura. There is competition from existing rings by CIRCULAR and ULTRAHUMAN, and new products announced by Amazfit/Zepp and Samsung. we might one day even see a Garmin Ring, Google/Fitbit Ring or Apple Ring. With the exception of a sports and recovery band like Whoop, no other form factor probably represents such a large opportunity for Polar.

Dissecting Werring’s Quote

Polar has considered smart ring hardware.

However, we have to consider what kinds of products or tech can meaningfully access the FLOW ecosystem and then whether or not Polar would want to grant access to FLOW to the potential competitor. Then, what volume of product sales and data uploads are likely to follow? and can FLOW handle that?

Quick, meaningful access to Polar FLOW can only come from a new product that produces heart rate and/or heart rate variability data. FLOW’s existing algorithms and reporting mechanisms would add immediate value to those metrics from a 3rd party product. If a third party had, say, a sweat sensor then there is very little in FLOW that can be immediately piggy-backed upon. Sure Polar could develop new features and cross-sell the product and so forth. But that’s a much more costly and involved way to make money and also more risky.

Opening up FLOW to Sennheiser’s heart rate earphones looks to be a good move and an obvious and relatively easy one…with hindsight! Polar isn’t going to make its own-branded HR headphones and there is an obvious potential to hit good sales/connection volumes as millions of runners workout with music.

A smart ring presents pretty much exactly the same options possibly even for a larger number of potential users.

However smart rings are always going to be pretty rubbish at measuring sports heart rate but they are a great and unobtrusive way to measure resting levels of HR and a great form factor to wear overnight to gather meaningful HRV and sleep insights. Rings and sports watches can certainly be complementary.

Q: Could Polar make its own smart ring?

A: No. That’s highly unlikely as, like Garmin, they wouldn’t have the production line, supply chain and maybe even all the distribution channels for that. More likely would be subcontracted production and more likely still would be licencing.

Q: Could Polar FLOW handle a huge increase in user and data volumes from partnerships with HR-RING and smart HR-EARPHONE companies

A: I guess that’s a nice problem to have. More bandwidth and a few more servers are relatively easily able to scale a balanced, global sports ecosystem.

Thoughts

This would be a great move for Polar to make happen with ULTRAHUMAN.

I’m guessing the company has a big Indian presence in its home market and any hook-up would boost Polar’s brand awareness in that market. Elsewhere in Europe, ULTRAHUMAN would gain considerable kudos from any partnership with Polar.

More Insights (and story via): Wearables for Human Performance (Facebook Group)

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