Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.
Just in case your New Year’s resolutions include something about exercise, I want to fill you in on one of the newest start-ups working on a wearable fitness sensor, Bobo Analytics.
Based at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, Bobo is working on a wristwatch-like product to monitor your heart rate and movement. As founder and chief executive Will Ahmed put it:
“The chest strap that monitors heart rate is a 30-year-old technology, and people don’t wear it all the time. We want to understand what’s happening on a daily basis.”
The prototype has two optical sensors that collect data about your pulse, as well as an accelerometer to monitor motion. Ahmed said the company is also testing sensors for skin temperature and perspiration.
The Bobo device can send data via Bluetooth to a nearby phone, tablet, or laptop, letting users log their data over time.
Ahmed is not yet talking about a target price for the device, but said the company may initially market it through coaches and trainers.
“They often have athletes or clients that are overtraining or undertraining,” he says. “They want to be able to monitor that, even when they’re not physically there for a workout. How intense was it? When are you recovered from it?”
Ahmed says the company has raised about $300,000 in seed funding and may soon look to raise more.
The company name, Bobo, is intended to sound like a heartbeat.
A simple way to divvy up the dining bill
I usually like to pick up the bill when I’m interviewing someone over lunch. But last week at Firebrand Saints in Cambridge, Steve Fredette and I split the tab — so he could demonstrate the new app his start-up has created.
Fredette left Endeca over the summer and with another alumnus of the Cambridge business intelligence company, Jonathan Grimm, started Toast Inc. Toast is operating out of the Kendall Square offices of Bessemer Venture Partners, the VC firm, but Fredette says he hasn’t yet accepted any outside funding.
The Toast iPhone app allows you to start a tab at a restaurant, linked to your credit card. You can see what’s on your tab and divide it exactly as you’d like among several diners. You can set an amount for the tip and settle up whenever you’re ready. Toast eliminates all that back-and-forth with the check, your credit card, and multiple copies of the receipt.
On the restaurant’s end, Toast provides an iPad that is plugged into the cash register. That enables wait staff to enter orders the way they usually do, and have them appear on the app diners are using. Servers can also get background on customers by clicking on their profiles on the tablet: who comes in frequently, tips well, or often brings in big groups.
“One problem that most restaurants have,” Fredette says, “is that as they hire new staff, their regulars aren’t recognized.”
Eventually, Fredette plans for Toast to do more. He sees it as an establishment’s “connection with their customers,” a way for them to ask you for feedback or to share your experience on social media.
There will also be a way for restaurants to send you special offers (of course).
When we tried it, a few things went awry, as is often the case with technology that’s still in development. Our server, apparently new, had never heard of Toast. A tab got started with Toast, but it included only Fredette. So we asked again, and finally we were both included on it.
Despite the hiccups, it was nice to have a way to split the bill in a granular fashion (I paid just for my fish sandwich and side of polenta, which were $2 more expensive than what Fredette ordered) and to pay and leave when we were ready. With large groups, Fredette pointed out, Toast deals fairly with that scoundrel who always dashes out 15 minutes before everyone else, plunks down a $20, and then forces everyone else to cover his overage.
Right now, Toast is deployed only at Firebrand Saints. “We wanted to get it right at one place first, and then it becomes an easier sell to other restaurants,” Fredette says.