© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Is There Room For Another Fitness Tracker? Texas Firm Is Counting On It


This holiday weekend in the U.S., between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, America will be buying billions of dollars' worth of technology. For many small tech firms pushing a new product, how much they sell over the next few days can be make or break. From Austin, Texas, reporter Brenda Salinas has the story of what one startup is trying to do to come out with a winner.

BRENDA SALINAS, BYLINE: Peter Li is launching a brand-new fitness tracker just in time for Black Friday.

PETER LI: Here we go. It's so cool.

SALINAS: He's taking a break, testing the tracker underwater. A former competitive swimmer, Li used to track his workouts on a soggy notebook. That's what inspired him to create the Atlas. It's an LED heart rate monitor you wear on your wrist with a 3-D mapping sensor so the Atlas knows exactly how many push-ups you did or how well you swam.

LI: Average heart rate was 144, a 10 percent increase from last time - says my form was a C. It's been a while since I've been in the water.

SALINAS: Li's been too busy taking his tracker from beta tested to launch ready.

LI: It's like before a race or before any sort of competition; you get sort of like a little bit of butterflies. But it's sort of more like excitement and anticipation than fear, I'd say.

SALINAS: Li is entering a very crowded market. You can choose from more than two dozen fitness trackers this holiday season. Lily Prasuethsut reviews them for the online publication TechCrunch. She's curious about the Atlas.

LILY PRASUETHSUT: It seems really interesting. Whether it's yelling at you from your wrist or through metrics on your computer, it's pretty appealing.

SALINAS: Li is selling his tracker directly to consumers, and unlike his competitors, he's only advertising online. Prasuethsut says that could be a problem.

PRASUETHSUT: Definitely people want to try it on to see if it fits right, to see if it looks good and even just to push some buttons to see what it looks like.

SALINAS: For Peter Li, the creator of the Atlas, this is a high-stakes weekend.

LI: Black Friday is a huge season for wrist-worn devices. So for us, shipping before then gives us the opportunity to prove to the world and to the market that this is feasible, and this is possible and a product that you can buy.

SALINAS: Li's only advertising on social media. That's not a lot of reach, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, says Ben Bentzin. He studies the marketing of technology at the University of Texas. He says Li's plan will work if he generates buzz in a niche market.

BEN BENTZIN: The challenge for any brand on Black Friday is to get people talking about them. And if people are talking about their brand, they'll go find them. Everybody knows how to put the name of a brand into a search bar and go find it.

SALINAS: Lee is targeting hard-core fitness fanatics - mostly the crossfit crowd. He's hoping word-of-mouth, both in gyms and online, will be enough to make the Atlas a hit. By Tuesday, he'll have a better idea of whether that's happening. In Austin, I'm Brenda Salinas for NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.