OMsignal, developers of bio-sensing clothing, has raised $1 million in venture capital from Real Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, and David Cohen of TechStars.
With the recent rise in popularity of bracelets and clip-ons, the Montreal-based startup said that consumers have demonstrated a demand for wearable computing and bio-feedback. In addition to physical activity, OMsignal’s clothing captures ECG and breathing patterns.
"Our ultimate goal is to enable a variety of partner services and applications to help people lead healthier and happier lives,” said CEO Stéphane Marceau.
Their products can create a big splash in both the physical monitoring and athletic clothing markets. Both younger athletes and older people concerned about their health can envision the day where most signals that their bodies emit- physiological, emotive, ECG data and more- can be collected and analyzed to increase wellness and performance. That day should coming soon as a result of the investment.
This was also the vision that cofounders Marceau and Frederic Chanay shared back in 2011 when they started working on the technology. Prior to that the pair worked together at a major US telecom firm developing a mobile health app that could capture users’ moods based on a bracelet. While their employers moved on from the idea, Marceau and Chanay didn’t.
“We always stayed with this impression that we have all this technology that helps us stay with the world outside, but none of it is used to capture the world inside of us,” Chanay told Techvibes. “We were really interested in capturing data about yourself to help you understand what makes you tick.”
OMsignal shirts are designed for everyday use. Physiological signals acquired from the body are filtered and interpreted to deliver useful information and actionable insights to consumers, health and medical practitioners. The information and insights derived from OMsignal include ECG, activity and respiration rhythms as well as a measure of tension level or "emotive" states. “Really the main motivation for Stephane and I is to develop the tech to empower people to know better about themselves, and to take control,” said Chanay.
"OMsignal goes well beyond today's existing smart accessories to track core biological signals," said Matt Golden of Golden Venture Partners. "This represents a major shift in the ability to monitor in-depth biological rhythms discretely and continuously as people go about their normal lives."
The venture capital raised by the company was actually secured a few months ago, but OMsignal wanted to stay in stealth mode, given that the field has grown increasingly more crowded over the past six months. The money will allow them to beta test this summer with hundreds of users. The company will start producing the shirts for public sale once it fully launches, but this is largely dependent on how the summer goes.
Chanay said they’ve noticed two types of users, the younger, tech-savvy folk interested in athletics and fitness, and those who are interested in their stress balance and daily health. This latter group could be called the “quantified selfers”, and Chanay admits OMsignal might act as a self-serving project.
“The insight that OMsignal gives me is phenomenal, you can’t even compare it,” he said. “I’m a startup entrepreneur. I’ve gained the proverbial 15 pounds because I’ve been stressed, etc. OMsignal really helped me understand my stress level, even if its something we’re still perfecting. I’m actually developing different behavior because of it and I’ve learned to use the feedback I get to help me sleep better.”
Alan MacIntosh of Real Ventures was evidently pleased with his firm’s latest investment. "The founders of OMsignal pulled together an exceptionally talented team from very diverse and highly specialized fields including scientists, designers, engineers, medical experts as well as renowned academic researchers,” said MacIntosh. “Working with world-class partners, OMsignal has also tapped into Montreal's unique history of high-end textile development and its vibrant tech startup community."
Matching the scalability of recent successful Montreal startups Frank & Oak or Beyond The Rack may be a challenge, but Chanay believes people will all want this technology soon. “You can see a world five years from now where you’re going to go into a store and you can buy the normal lululemon shirt and the lululemon shirt that has bio-sensing for five dollars more,” he said. “Especially since you’re going to learn so much for yourself.”