Would you wear a smartshoe?

Lechal shoe Smartshoes are the next smart wearables according to Indian technology startup Ducere Technologies.
Ducere Technologies
Lechal shoe Smartshoes are the next smart wearables according to Indian technology startup Ducere Technologies.

A new wearable tech entrant, the Bluetooth-enabled Lechal smartshoe, got off to a running start with 25,000 pre-orders from retailers around the globe, but it isn't clear whether consumers will want their feet to climb the technology ladder.

Indian start-up firm Ducere Technologies' smartshoe will hit shelves by October, priced at around $100 a pair, the firm told CNBC. By syncing up with a smartphone app that uses Google Maps, the shoe's insole vibrates to tell users when and where to turn to reach their destination.

Founders Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, who started the firm in 2011, initially designed the shoe to aid the visually-impaired who typically rely on canes, but said during testing they realized the shoe could also appeal to joggers, mountain bikers and tourists as well.

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The smartshoe from Lechal - which means 'take me there' in Hindi - is the latest addition to the stable of wearable tech products coming out of India recently, following a wristband that connects to a personal trainer and a ring that can switch on home appliances.

Other wearable tech products have seen some success, such as the 'Google Glass'- spectacles which give wearers access to the Internet using voice commands, Samsung's Galaxy Gear 'smartwatch' which compliments the smartphone and tablet, and Nike's FuelBand, an activity tracker which connects with an iPhone or iPad device.

EuroMonitor forecasts wearable electronics sales will grow from 22 million units in 2014 to 258 million in 2018, closing in on the numbers of tablet sales.

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But Shane Walker, who manages the medical devices and healthcare IT research portfolio at IHS, told CNBC Ducere's smartshoes may only have a limited appeal.

"It's an interesting wearable application, and goes a bit beyond what other smart footwear has done in the past. However, I expect that this will be a niche product, at least when it comes to a non-visually impaired consumer looking for a location/fitness product," he said.

Aileen Ho, a 37-year old Singaporean running enthusiast, agreed. She told CNBC she would have some reservations about buying a 'smartshoe.'

"I'm not sure how comfortable these shoes would be. Runners are usually particular about the weight, comfort and cushion level. I'm also not sure how durable they would be if I had to jump or if I ran on rugged terrain," she said.

"The navigation element doesn't really appeal to me as I already know the routes that I run well. I wouldn't buy them unless the design was unique, but $100 price seems reasonable," she added.

The company told CNBC that the shoe had been designed to be the same weight, as comfortable as an ordinary running shoe, and able to withstand up to 500 kilograms in weight per shoe.

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Wee Teck Loo, head of consumer electronics at EuroMonitor, pointed out that the product closely resembles another already available on the market - the Nike+iPod Sports kit launched in 2010, an activity-tracker device which measures and records the distance and pace of a walk or run, priced at $19.90. The product, which doesn't include the shoe, works by connecting a transmitter device embedded in user's shoe to either the Nike+ sports band or a receiver plugged into an iPod Nano, iPhone or Nike+ Sportswatch.

"The product looks uncannily like the Nike+iPod sensor," Wee Teck said. "Lechal improved the concept and allows pairing with smartphones (Android), [but] I believe the market is looking at something more sophisticated," he said. "Fitness related wearables... enjoy moderate success. The challenge is to come up with new functionality to attract a wider audience."

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Krispian Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of Ducere Technologies, told CNBC that Lechal's navigation tool separates the product from others on the market.

"Other products just count your steps and track your calories. What we do, in addition to that, is we do navigation through vibrations - so there is no need for voice or audio feedback. You can also communicate with your footwear through gestures - so if you want to tag a location you just need to point your right foot down," he said.

Lawrence added that users can use the smartshoe to set work-out goals, such as a pre-determined calorie burn over a particular timeframe, as the vibrations will tell you if you need to speed up or slow down, or to set the pace for a long-distance run.

So far the product has proven most popular in India, North America, Europe, Japan and South Korea, the co-founder said. He aims to sell more than 100,000 pairs by March.