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Wearable Tech Gets Intimate With Women’s Bodies

The Elvie, created by women's wearable tech company Chiaro, is a fitness tracker for the pelvic floorThe Elvie, created by women's wearable tech company Chiaro, is a fitness tracker for the pelvic floor
The Elvie, created by women's wearable tech company Chiaro, is a fitness tracker for the pelvic floorPhotograph courtesy of Chiaro

When we think about wearables, most of us imagine the Apple Watch, or the fitness tracker FitBit—hardware that is worn on our wrists. Of course, some companies have gotten more creative, with smart rings, necklaces that track your sleep, and clutches that double as phone speakers. But a new wave of wearables for women is going even further: inside our bodies.

“When people talk about the ‘quantified self,’ this is the final frontier of what can be tracked,” says Tania Boler, co-founder and CEO of Chiaro, a women’s wearable tech company. Chiaro’s first product is Elvie, an exercise tracker for the pelvic floor, which Boler says is largely ignored and misunderstood. One in three women have pelvic floor problems, yet many are deterred from doing Kegel exercises.

“A lot of women know they need to do them, but they can’t tell whether they’re doing them correctly and they don’t know if it’s working,” she explains. Linked to a smartphone app, Elvie can sense whether a woman is doing Kegels correctly and track her progress with the exercises.

Boler’s co-founder is Alexander Asseily, the chairman and founder of fitness tracker Jawbone. Asseily initially came on board as an investor, but later became a founder when he recognized the size of the market opportunity for wearables in the women’s health space, Boler says. Boler puts the market for products to prevent accidental leakage—one of the problems associated with a weak pelvic floor—at $17 million. And that doesn’t factor in women who are looking to have better sex or simply be healthier. The company has raised $3 million in funding since launching in August 2013, and includes Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps, among its investors.

The Elvie, created by women's wearable tech company Chiaro, is a fitness tracker for the pelvic floor The Elvie, created by women’s wearable tech company Chiaro, is a fitness tracker for the pelvic floorPhotograph courtesy of Chiaro

Another major area of opportunity for women’s health wearables is in reproductive health and fertility. One of the biggest players in the space is Boulder-based Kindara, which has raised nearly $7 million from investors so far. Co-founded by husband-and-wife team Katherine Bicknell and William Sacks, it is now being led by Sacks alone, who is passionate about fertility. “It’s this beautiful, magical thing, and no one really knows a thing about it,” he says.

Kindara’s flagship product is the Wink, a fertility thermometer that links to a smartphone and tracks a woman’s fertility cycle over time. The product appeals to women who want to get pregnant, of course, but also to those who use fertility awareness to avoid it, says Sacks. “We’re solving a really high-value problem. What’s more important than whether or not another human being born or not born?”

Kindara's Wink is a smart fertility thermometer.Kindara’s Wink is a smart fertility thermometer.Photograph courtesy of Wink

Women’s sexual health is also being disrupted, with sex toys getting much smarter: The newest models have more in common with the FitBit than with the vibrators of years past. Companies like Vibease and OhMiBod link toys to smart phone apps, allowing women to have unprecedented control over their experiences—whether that means being in control themselves, or handing the reins over to a partner.

Suki Dunham, co-founder of OhMiBod, says that tech and women’s sexuality go hand in hand. “We believe that these products can truly augment a woman’s love life,” she says, noting that apps and wearable can help women learn about their own sexuality and share that knowledge with a partner. For example, the OhMiBod app includes a journal function for orgasms (think MyFitnessPal, except for sex). The Vibease, which is completely wearable, has an option to have the toy sync to a “fantasy story” on a smartphone. While OhMiBod is co-owned by Dunham and her husband, Vibease has raised $111,000 in seed funding so far.

OhMiBod's BlueMotion is a connected women's sex toyOhMiBod’s BlueMotion is a connected women’s sex toyCourtesy of OhMiBod