China sportswear maker Li Ning is working with smartphone vendor Xiaomi to introduce affordable running shoes with “smart” chips that connect to a mobile app and let runners monitor and analyse their runs.
Li Ning, which has seen its fortunes sour following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, said in a statement it opted to partner with Huami Technology (a unit of Xiaomi) because of its strength in “smart” wearable devices, which are sold under the Mi brand.
Late last year Xiaomi invested in US-based wearables firm Misfit, which raised a total of $40 million from four companies. The investment was the first time Xiaomi has taken a stake in a US technology firm.
In its first move into wearables, Xiaomi launched a $13 fitness and sleep tracker in August. The Mi Band has a 30-day battery life and can also unlock a person’s smartphone when in close proximity — eliminating the hassle of entering a password.
Gartner forecast last year that shipments of wearable fitness devices will increase from 70.2 million units in 2014 to 91.3 million units in 2016.
While sports watches and chest straps are well established, and smart wristbands are gaining popularity, the research firm believes the smart garment product category has the greatest potential for growth going forward because the category is just emerging from the testing phase. Smart garment shipments are forecast to grow from 0.1 million units in 2014 to 26 million units in 2016.