There was a time when cellphones were big and bulky, but they have evolved immensely since their introduction in 1983. Although today’s models are more portable, innovators have thought of the impossible: using the fingertip, literally, to make phone calls. This bold idea is bound to take the industry by storm, coming from a startup within Samsung Electronic’s in-house creative lab, C-LAB.
Innomdle Lab (from the full name Innovation Medley) is the first spin-off startup from C-LAB, and they have successfully created Sgnl, their crowd-funded product that allows calls to come from a person’s fingertip through a smart strap.
The bold idea came from Choi Hyun Chul, the company’s CEO. “It felt inconvenient, I thought it would be embarrassing because everyone nearby could hear my conversation in real time,” he said. As he was trying to figure out how to overcome this problem, he found a way to turn his outrageous idea into reality.
Soon, he applied for Samsung’s C-LAB, and it was selected as the best in the competition program. Today, it has received a collective $2.2 million in funds, backed by thousands in both Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
A Phone in Your Finger
Sgnl, a South Korea-based product, was able to raise funds with as little as $1 per person, but pledges of $99 or more gives backers access to an entire Sgnl smart strap set. They have 8,117 backers in Kickstarter, and 3,508 in Indiegogo, proving the product popular as it is innovative.
Sgnl is a replacement watch strap with an embedded microphone with a feature that blocks out external noises, and then transfers incoming audio through the index finger that also blocks out any background noise the user might hear. This groundbreaking technology completely eliminates the need for taking out the cellphone to answer calls, deems the problem of losing earphones obsolete, and also makes phone calls clearer for both parties.
With only an initial target funding of $50,000 in mind, the impressive amount of backers and the millions of dollars in pledges allowed the realization of this inventive piece of tech. The Sgnl battery boasts of power enough to last a week.
This fingertip-powered technology allows its users to hear clearly, regardless of the noise level of their surroundings. As the unit receives a voice signal from the user’s phone via Bluetooth, it then vibrates via its Body Conduction Unit (BCU), then transmits the vibrations through the user’s hand and onto their fingertip. Because they are vibrations, they do not only allow for discreet phone calls, but also pose no medical harm to its user.
“With Sgnl, answering calls is direct and immediate. There is no need to rummage through bags or pockets when your phone rings. Users can simply place their finger on their ear to answer calls,” Innomdle Lab said.
This BCU works similarly to Kyocera’s audio boosting technology via hard tissue conduction from 2012, which transmits calls from a cellphone into a user’s ear eliminating the need for an in-ear speaker. However, Sgnl’s tech is still a different bold idea that has been around for years, applying for Samsung’s C-LAB in May 2014, and then formally launching their Kickstarter and IndieGogo projects in August and October 2016 respectively.
What makes it different is that Sgnl works not only with smart watches like Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, and Pebble Time, but also on regular and classic watches, as long as they use the standard 18-24mm watch lugs. In lieu of this, the strap can also be worn on its own as a standalone wristband device. Because of its unique features and breakthrough tech, the strap has been featured in notable publications such as Business Insider, Geek, Mashable, and The Verge.