Smart socks give runners data most fitness trackers don't

Competition among fitness devices might soon be moving from your wrist to your ankles. Startup Heapsylon lets CNET try out the Sensoria smart socks.

We live in an age of smart. We talk on smartphones, ride smart bikes, chill beer in smart refrigerators. And soon we'll be wearing smart socks. At least that's what Redmond, Wash., startup Heapsylon hopes.

"The vision for the company is that the garment, whatever we wear, is going to eventually turn into a computer," Heapsylon CEO David Vigano said. Heapsylon is incorporating the sensors it's developed into various textiles for its Sensoria product line which will include T-shirts, sports bras, and socks.

Why socks? "Our feet are constantly under pressure," Vigano said, "and they're both under pressure and underserved by technology and innovation." The socks work alongside an anklet that magnetically attaches to them. The anklet gathers data from the sensors which it then transmits via Bluetooth to the user's smartphone.

Similar to fitness trackers , the Sensoria socks glean data from built-in accelerometers, so you'll have access to the metrics that matter most, such as your speed, distance, and altitude gain. If you've been swept up in the fitness tracker craze, you know this is pretty standard stuff. But the Sensoria sock system also offers some unique real-time stats that serious runners will find especially attractive: pressure and force data on your feet. That allows users to determine whether or not they're pronating or have a heel-striking tendency. It also offers specifics on cadence and pace.

All that is bound to please avid runners, though they may not be too thrilled about wearing the anklet. While I didn't find the prototype that I briefly tried on uncomfortable, I'm curious as to whether a more skilled runner would find it cumbersome on a long run. Naturally, there are plans to reduce its footprint, so to speak. "Long-term, the anklet would become smaller and smaller," Vigano said. "We think that eventually it will disappear to the human eye. Right now, we want to create an anklet that will be a fashion accessory."

That may seem like a tall order, given that anything worn on the ankle immediately conjures up images of someone under house arrest. But given the rising popularity of fitness gadgets like the Nike FuelBand and the Jawbone Up , it may not be such a stretch after all.

About the author

    Sumi Das has been covering technology since the original dot-com boom. She was hired by cable network TechTV in 1998 to produce and host a half-hour program devoted to new and future technologies. Prior to CNET, Sumi served as a Washington DC-based correspondent, covering breaking news for CNN. She reported live from New Orleans and contributed to CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which earned the network a Peabody Award. She also files in-depth tech stories for BBC News which are seen by a primarily international audience.


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