MONTREAL — A Montreal company is entering the competitive sports bra market by launching a smart technology product specifically targeting female runners.
OMbra contains sensors that read biometric signals such as heart rate, movement and breathing rhythms, which are streamed to an app that coaches runners to obtain optimal results.
The bra is a more comfortable and better alternative to watches and wrist bands, says OMsignal CEO and founder Stephane Marceau.
“Your heart and your lungs are not within your wrists, so to get a good signal you’ve got to be where the action happens, and the bra delivers the absolute most desirable body real estate to read and listen to the body,” he said in an interview.
While some companies already sell sports bras that work with heart-rate monitors, OMsignal believes its bra is the first to capture heart, movement and breathing pattern information. Marceau says these three biometric signals are key to running.
Developed after two years of research, the OMbra uses silver-based yarn to measure the performance of the body and transmit data through a black box to an app. The runner can view a detailed analysis after the run, or monitor her form midstream by receiving audio prompts, for example, to slow down to the most productive fat-burning levels.
With some 35-million female runners just in the U.S., the sport is a focus for large companies like Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, Marceau said.
“The bra is incredibly important so there’s a battle of the bra going on there.”
Marceau said OMsignal will spend the next six months developing its brand but wouldn’t rule out eventually partnering with a major name.
The bra, which uses GPS to track movement, is currently only for use outdoors through an iPhone. However, an indoor application is expected in November and an android connection is planned for early 2017.
Online sales began Monday and will be tested at a few Quebec retail stores. The starter kit, which includes the black box technology and a USB cable to charge the device, retails for $189. Additional bras sell for $79.
OMbra is made in Asia by Mas Holdings, an investor that also supplies products to Lululemon, Nike and Victoria’s Secret.
OMsignal began to sell a smart shirt for men in 2014 and has partnered with Ralph Lauren for its recently launched PoloTech collection.
The company says it has raised US$20 million, including half recently led by Relay Ventures, a Toronto- and California-based early stage venture fund exclusively focused on mobile computing. The funding, which also includes Investissement Quebec and Export Development Canada, is designed to establish sales distribution and fund efforts for future products.
OMsignal has developed a prototype for a cycling shirt and plans to look at other sports and to use its technology to monitor chronic health conditions.
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