Clutch spoke with Al Baker, co-founder and CEO of Reemo, as part of a series of interviews about wearable technology.
Learn more about Reemo at getreemo.com.
Could you describe your company and your role there?
My company is called Reemo, formerly known as Playtabase. We offer a hands-free control solution that allows people to live independently in their homes, by completing tasks without having to get up. It’s as easy as learning just a few gestures to control anything. We try to give caregivers and family members peace of mind by combining wearable technology, like smartwatches, with home platforms, like SmartThings or Nest.
My role is co-founder and CEO.
Could you describe your wearable device, Reemo?
We originally designed everything from the ground up, including a wearable device and a home automation system, in the early days of our company. Since then, we became a software platform that is enabled by smartwatches, smartphones, and smarthome technology. We’re a software layer that lives in-between the cloud of other smarthome platforms and brings them all together.
This is where MentorMate came in for us, as a design house that helped us to develop a mobile application that could scale with all the other architectures of these smarthome systems, which are all using cloud-based infrastructures.
We designed the proprietary gesture control solution. It has seven gestures that are adjustable, and you can apply different gesture commands to different devices. You can work across all the different platforms without having to skip a beat. This is all mobile enabled, so it can work in virtually any home that has Internet. This is what we call the Reemo Engine. It includes the seven gestures that we’ve created, low-power battery optimization, cross-platform functionality, and unique gesture customization capabilities.
What’s really cool about Reemo is that it can work with any platform out there. On the home side, we’ve integrated with Logitech and iControl, and we have tested Reemo with Android Wear, Apple Watch, Samsung, and Microsoft Band.
We’re monetizing this in a couple of ways. We’re not only acting as a software as a service platform but also providing data and insight on what’s happening throughout the day for users who are being offered care by a third-party, whether it’s a family member or an assisted care company. We give them real-time data through an online portal that they can subscribe to by paying a monthly fee.
Also, we can license this technology to other wearable manufacturers that are looking for a richer set of features and functionalities that the actual device can do. It’s similar to how Siri is a very fundamental technology for the iPhone. Reemo will be that for other wearables down the road as well through licensing.
What challenge or opportunity were you trying to address with the development of this wearable device?
My co-founder's father had multiple strokes, back-to-back. He couldn’t use one side of his entire body, so he was unable to move around comfortably in his home. He was constantly at risk of falling, and he actually experienced falls. It was a huge financial and emotional burden for his family to offer him care, while at the same time, trying to make him feel empowered and independent. That’s where the idea for a one-handed remote for everything came to mind. It has since evolved into an elegant smartwatch-enabled solution for anyone with mobility concerns.
Could you describe the process of developing Reemo?
We started inventing the technology in 2012. Since then, our team has designed the product into what it is today. It started out with a few guys at the University of Minnesota, working independently from the university. It was my co-founder, Muhammad Abdurrahman’s idea.
The early problems that we were trying to sift through were, ‘How do we accomplish this?” “How do we do it in a way that’s going to be sustainable, and how is it going to get into the market?”
What was your experience working with both in-house and external developers?
We have a team of seven developers right now who do anything from hardware design, to firmware design, to software development and design. These guys are from the University of Minnesota, as well as from Chicago and South Dakota. This is a group that we recruited, and we’ve been working together for about a year and a half. They’re led by our CTO [Chief Technology Officer], who’s an alumni of Cray Supercomputers, and was the lead architect for Reemo.
Our development team is working across the board on designing something that can integrate and work with different wearable and smartwatch platforms, as well as developing the software and the features alongside it.
What was the marketing strategy for Reemo’s release?
Our marketing strategy centers on people who know someone who experiences difficulty walking around in their homes. That’s how we drive the online and social aspect. Do you know someone who has trouble getting around in their homes, and did you know that there’s technology out there that can assist them and alleviate their pain?
The different software features that we offer can be specified toward a certain population. For instance, when someone’s wandering due to Parkinson’s disease. We can build in features that provide analytics for this specific case or situation.
A lot of the marketing, aside from that, is sending out press releases, getting thought leadership pieces on what we’re doing with people, and showcasing success stories. Because it’s such a new technology and a new market, people need to see an example of how it’s been done before they can really buy into it. So we’re creating case studies publicly, in collaboration with our customers and partners. For instance, one of our customers, Ohio Masonic Homes, is taking our technology and giving it to dozens of their users. They know the technology is viable, and now they want to scale it throughout their organization.
As far as any other marketing, a lot of it is direct sales.
Have you made any changes or updates since Reemo’s initial release?
We haven’t had any major changes to Reemo since its initial release. We’ve been focusing on partnering with different smartwatch and smarthome platforms right now, in order to determine which ones offer the best experience.
What challenges did you face during the project’s rollout, and what steps did you take to overcome these challenges?
I think the big and obvious challenges occurred when we first started out. There was not much of an infrastructure for smartwatch or smarthome platforms, so we had to build everything from the ground up.
But, since then, the industry grew up, so one of the challenges that we had corrected itself. We can stop focusing on building the infrastructure itself and instead start partnering and getting the product and its features further at a faster pace.
In what ways did your initial conceptualization of the device change throughout the development process?
The Internet of Things [IoT] and Internet of Everything was a really neat concept, but back in the day, even today, it’s difficult trying to figure out what it is, where it’s going, and how it will offer value to people.
We have tested it [IoT] in a lot of different markets. We talked to healthcare providers to determine whether Reemo would be worthwhile in this space. We talked to retailers, automotive groups, industrial professionals, and different thought leaders in a variety of areas. We came to the conclusion that the people who need Reemo the most are both the individuals trying to live independently and their care providers, who are trying to offer new solutions that are more defensible, in this highly fragmented market of healthcare, healthcare services, and assisted care. That was the process for how we decided what we wanted to do, as far as design.
This process included our whole team, as well as MentorMate. They [MentorMate] looked at us and said, ‘No, you have to be much more software-enabled because there’s no standard out there for connected home solutions. There has to be a way that you can bridge that gap by being highly versatile and configurable with all these different platforms.’
By designing Reemo to be more software-enabled, we were able to scale with the industry and technology. By focusing on the people that needed it the most, we were much more confident that our business goals could be achieved.
What lessons did you learn, and where are you going next?
In order to succeed in the technology market, you have to pair technology with a specific use case to trigger the adoption of the technology. Who is actually going to benefit from this? It’s not necessarily going to be developers or people that are early adopters for the sake of being early adopters. It has to be the people that can really get some use out of it and make their lives better. You’ve really got to focus on who is going to get the most value out of your product today and then worry about becoming a platform alongside its growth.
What advice would you share with another organization that is seeking to develop a wearable application?
Find A Thought Leader For Guidance - I’d tell them to find a group that’s done both. For us, it was MentorMate. The entire team over there does wearables and mobile applications. They’ve been there since the beginning with mobile apps, and they were there at the beginning with smartwatches. It is important to focus on the people who have been there and done it before because they’ve amassed more learning and spent more money on it than any company like us. Then, we can take that knowledge and build on it ourselves.
Start Simply - On top of that, start with the simplest applications out there because there’s not a lot of functionality to compete with at this point with wearables.
Future of Wearables
What role do you see wearable technology playing in the next 6-12 months?
I think wearables will definitely move beyond being a fad. I think it’s going to be much more of a serious topic, both on the consumer and enterprise levels.