Feature picture: Blincam
It is a wearable camera innovation. The innovators have named the product Blincam. The device has a sensor, an HD – CMOS camera, a battery, and a 16 GB storage unit. The device’s weight is just 25 grams, light enough to be mounted on eyeglasses. The camera operates with a strong wink. The eye muscle triggers the camera and captures a moment instantaneously. It is a great, fun device. Pictures can be downloaded to an external device or on the cloud using a smartphone and Bluetooth.
The sensor lies at the heart of the innovation. Its operation is controlled by an algorithm built by the Blincam team. Sensors have been in the market for over a decade. They are used in security cameras, lighting control, intrusion detection, and various other devices. It is the algorithm on the sensor that determines the use case.
Innovators across the globe are building more every day, more connected devices. The world is rapidly becoming connected. It is a world of algorithms and devices. The technology landscape, in general, is evolving rapidly.
Each connected device helps aggregate data. In the case of Blincam, images will be captured and stored on the cloud. This, then, is a potential data source. Data mining, machine learning, and analytics tools can then be deployed to draw intelligence from this data and put the algorithm in a self-learning mode.
Devices inevitably will, over time, appear to become smarter. They will be able to pick up trends and make recommendations. In time, such devices can be made to operate autonomously too. Imagine triggering a Blincam even without a wink. It will be a small robot sitting on your eyeglasses triggered by a pattern of use upon pre-approval of the user. Picture-taking would become autonomous. It will be customer preferences and innovation by people like Takase, the Founder of Blincam, that will drive such future use cases.
But haven’t we heard similar stories when Google Glass was launched? That was in 2013. Glass, too, could take photos and videos. It was an eye-wearing device. Glass could be directed at any object and not just take a picture but link up to the internet and pull all available information on the subject.
But we know even after sustained marketing of Google Glass, the innovation bombed in the market, and the product was withdrawn. A lot of post mortem to the causes of the failure of Google Glass has been done. These could act as lessons for Blincam and similar IOT-based product innovators.
Many placed the failure of Google Glass on privacy concerns. Others say that the price of $1500 was too steep. Post-mortem analysts also noted that the product’s market focus was incorrect. Maybe they are right. But I find it difficult to attribute the failure of Google Glass to a misdirected marketing focus or faulty business strategy. In my opinion, the product was just ahead of its time. It was not matching to the need of the customer in 2013. But I, too, am speculating like others.
Blincam, on the other hand, is a fun product. It was getting into mass production in 2017. It is focused on the instant picture-taker market segment. This is a substantial market in itself. Takase told me he had received inquiries on his product from across the globe. Most inquiries come from the US, India, Thailand, and the Asia Pacific. Blincam has evoked interest in Asia and the US.
I was particularly curious to know from Takase his experience in securing funds for an innovation evoking interest in the mass market. Funding is something that every entrepreneur, especially in the initial stages of creation, is desperately seeking.
How easy was Takase to secure bootstrapping and angel funds for his venture? In a market like Japan, where the Japanese central bank is buying trillions of yen of bonds from the market aimed to kick start a flagging economy, it looked logical to assume that innovators would be able to secure startup funding from the government rather easily.
Takase, too, like others, had approached the relevant Japanese government institution for grant funds for his innovation. Getting government grants required him to fill out several forms. He was asked to prepare detailed business plans. His application, like that of many others, after all this effort, though, was not successful.
To get further insight into the startup innovation climate in Japan, I also sought to know his experience in securing patent approval for his innovation. Here too, the news is not positive. His patent application has been pending with the concerned authorities in Japan for over six months. And he is also using an agent to navigate through the corridors of power. But the wait continues.
No wonder Takase is thinking of relocating his business to the US. He believes US investors will take a positive and long-term view towards innovation and startup funding. This is something that is validated in my interviews with other startups too. Additionally, relocating to the US will give him access to that country’s vibrant technology product consumer market.
For now, he is financing his venture through crowdfunding. He secured 2.6 million yen in funding from the Japanese crowdfunding institution – Makuake – and is planning to launch another campaign on Indiegogo.
I think Blincam will succeed, whereas Google Glass did not.