The wait for the first wearable that automatically tracks your hydration levels will be a bit longer.
We ran a feature back in September last year on LVL, a fitness tracker that uses red-light technology to measure your hydration levels. It comes from BSX Athletics, an Austin-based wearable sensor company.
This technology penetrates 10 times deeper into your body than the green lights commonly found in fitness trackers, letting it both measure hydration levels and grab accurate heart rate readings. The company says its tested it on hundreds of athletes in their sweat lab, using gold standards in biometric sensing to refine its algorithms. Fitbit’s upcoming smartwatch is rumoured to be using the same red-light technology.
Essential reading: Wearable and health technology crowdfunding projects
Like many other fitness trackers, LVL can also track your activity (steps, distance, floors climbed), calories, sleep, mood and heart rate for a complete picture of your health. So a complete package.
Now, all this sounds good on paper. In fact it sounds so good that the company raised a whopping $1.2 million from 7,500 backers on Kickstarter to develop the product. With a delivery date set for June 2017, we were anxiously anticipating the arrival of the first hydration monitoring device.
But this is where things start to go wrong. After a few updates, its backers were pretty much hit with a wall of silence. In 2017 – there have only been 4 updates, and 2 of those have had no information – just a “more info coming soon” message. Much ire followed, and the backers eventually forced an update earlier this month.
The most appropriate place to begin is with an apology,” it read.
“I’m sorry. I write to you this afternoon not as the LVL team, hiding behind an amorphous entity without name or face, but as CEO, founder, a person and father, and a man who is deeply passionate about the work that we are engaged in.
“When our team started the Kickstarter campaign, we pledged transparency and regular updates. Something you each deserve. Something we have failed to deliver on. Why you may ask? Honestly, it’s because you deserved regular updates of substance, not salesmanship; full details, not fluff.”
The email goes on to say that a further update will follow on August 11th, when the company will provide delivery timelines and details.
Well, that update did arrive but it did not make its backers any happier. In fact it’s left many people upset and requesting refunds.
“We’re here with the update you’ve wanted and deserve,” it read.
“We have some big news to share on multiple fronts. Firstly, we’re excited to be able to finally announce that LVL has just closed a Series A funding round led by Samsung and other top tier strategic investors in the semiconductor, wearable and manufacturing industries that will help us bring LVL technology to market.”
“This is a tremendous milestone for the company (and all of you), bringing not only financial security but also technical expertise, networks and resources that will help us succeed.”
The gist of the rest of the email is that the development of LVL is delayed and the earliest backers can expect to receive their device is next summer. This means, instead of the originally planned June release date, there is now at least a one year delay. The email goes into quite a bit more detail, but it seems that the company has realised that the previous designs were not capable of both delivering all the promised features and also being manufactured at scale.
Now, while support from Samsung and additional funds certainly sounds like good news, the one year delay did not go down well with its backers. Its pretty clear that trust has all but evaporated. We received emails from some of them.
“People are furious, as this campaign has failed to live up to any of its promises – including the promise to post frequent and honest updates,” one of them read.
“People want their money back. They feel like they’re either giving interest-free loans to this company for several years – or that we’re not going to see anything at all.”
You can read the Kickstarter comments on this link.
A year is a long time to wait. And this is the problem with crowdfunding. We’re not saying this is what happened in this case, but many times companies over-promise and advertise unrealistic product delivery schedules in order to draw people into supporting their product. We’ve seen it happen quite a few times.
Crowdfunding, via websites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter, has been used to fund a wide range of entrepreneurial ventures such as artistic and creative projects, medical expenses, travel, or community-oriented social entrepreneurship projects. Some campaigns have been more successful that others, both in attracting funds and delivering on their promises.
And this is important to keep in mind if you decide to participate in a project. There are no guarantees and in many cases it is not likely you will receive a refund. It is a risky venture.
LVL will be doing a formal press release shortly to share the news officially with the general press and public at large.
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