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Wearable Tech

WeChat dives into wearables to start 'connecting everything'

Several health-and-fitness trackers have gone on sale in China, revealing that messaging-app maker's efforts to become a software platform for wearables and eventually "everything."

Screenshot by CNET

WeChat, the China-based messaging app maker, has officially made a foray into the wearable devices market.

Wearables from iHealth, Huawei Honor, Lifesense, and Codoon that sport WeChat's application programming interface (API) went on sale online in China earlier this month, according to The market for such fitness bands and smartwatches in China is immature and fragmented in its current state, but it's a competitive market with major technology firms including Qihoo and Xiaomi joining the fray.

Despite a growing interest in wearables, there has yet to be a leading centralized operating system for such devices in China. WeChat wants to fill this gap with an API that aims to become the de facto wearable OS there. WeChat's software is intended to provide a frictionless experience for wearable device users. With hundreds of millions of smartphone owners in China already using WeChat's messaging app, its API enables users to log into WeChat and removes the need to download a standalone app.

Tencent, WeChat's parent company, recently opened up its API for WeChat logins, as first noticed by China Internet Watch.

A recent report from the Credit Suisse Group projects that the annual global market for wearable devices may reach $30 billion (£17.5 billion, AU$31 billion) or up to $50 billion (£29 billion, AU$53 billion) within the next two or three years.

Meanwhile, WeChat is also looking to become a centralized data hub or data exchange for health information. The company has reportedly requested that its hardware partners share health data so it can be synchronized on multiple devices. By integrating with third-party manufacturers, WeChat can serve as a centralized data hub or data exchange whereby devices can tap into and use pre-existing health and fitness data collected from other WeChat-compatible devices.

For example, a wearable device using WeChat's API could offer up the best types of workouts for an overweight user based on information collected from other users on WeChat-connected devices.

It appears, however, that WeChat's relationship with hardware may extend beyond fitness and health devices. There's also evidence that the company has been scooping up product developers and preparing for an entrance into home automation, according to a WeChat product designer's LinkedIn page.

Considering WeChat has publicly acknowledged that the company is interested in "connecting everything," WeChat's foray into fitness and health tech may be just the first step.

WeChat did not respond to a request for comment.