In many consumer markets, leading brands are increasingly looking to establish a direct connection with their customers. As well as helping them understand their target customers’ wants and needs better, it allows brands to better predict precise demand for different styles, models, sizes, etc. in individual regions. Smartcube Co. helps make that connection possible through the power of the Internet of Things (IoT). Smartcube supplies ultra-efficient chips and associated apps to turn everyday objects like sport shoes and ID badges into smart, connected IoT devices.

The company does that through its "Smartcube inside" concept. This combines modular chips with dedicated apps and cloud services to connect people with products, companies and brands. In addition to giving the end user exciting new connected products, the concept allows manufacturers to collect more customer data and analyze it using big data techniques to get greater insight into their consumers.

Reliable, low-cost, low-power Bluetooth

"We initially developed the Smartcube with another Bluetooth supplier. But their chips couldn’t meet our price and power consumption requirements. Renesas' chip could and so we have switched over our entire product line to use Renesas' SmartBond ICs. This allows us to sell our products at a lower price point and makes our dream of IoT products that don’t need charging a real possibility," explains Chang.

"It isn’t just the technical benefits of the chips. Renesas provides fast and effective technical support whenever we need. And their global sales network has helped us meet more customers and partners," adds Smartcube co-founder and CEO Mark Ma.

Key to the concept is being able to deliver highly reliable Bluetooth communication between the Smartcube chip and the cloud with very low power consumption at the right price point. Bluetooth low energy (BLE) provides the direct channel to consumers that brands are looking for. It also allows brands to use IoT technology to connect to the factory for efficient inventory management based on more accurate demand predictions derived from customer data, saving on stock-up costs. Moreover, the unique functionality and traceability offered by IoT technology can effectively prevent counterfeiting, protecting the brand’s reputation.

"Our goal is to help our customers add functionality and value to existing products without increasing the price and allow them to collect data to improve future product generations," says Smartcube founder Frank Chang.

Improving our work and play

With Renesas chips now at their heart, Smartcube is making good on its vision of converting everyday objects into smart, connected IoT devices. For example, Smartcube collaborated with shoe manufacturers Alegria to create the TRAQ collection of smart fitness walking shoe.

Based on Smartcube’s technology, the Qchip at the heart of the TRAQ family is a smart pedometer that lives inside the shoe and never needs charging – so it is always ready to track every step you take. Backed up with a dedicated app and online community, the TRAQ collection supports and stimulates people to meet their health and fitness goals.

Elsewhere, Smartcube has integrated its technology into a smart ID badge that has been on the frontline of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Used together with a design application app and a cloud-based backend data platform, the badge can directly connect to other Bluetooth devices to track and analyze the wearers contact history. Employers can use this data to better manage operations during the pandemic and create safer, more welcoming working environments.