Recon Instruments eyes the industrial market for wearables

Recon Instruments | BCBusiness
Recon showcasing its new product at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials convention in early August.

Recon has succeeded by building tech for eyewear brands like Oakley. Now it wants to strike out on its own

In 2010, Recon Instruments released Transcend, a gadget known as a heads-up device: a digital interface mounted on a piece of eyewear that displays real-time information, such as navigational queues, to the wearer (think Google glass). Recon has sold 50,000 units to date, primarily in the U.S., partnering with eyewear brands like Oakley and Smith Optics to embed its product into ski goggles. 

Now Recon, which will be presenting at this week’s GROW Conference in Whistler, hopes to recreate that success with Jet. Instead of building high-tech components for other eyewear makers, the company will pilot its own pair of sunglasses, embedded with an Android-compatible digital interface. Jet, which sells online for $599 per pair, is being marketed at high-end sports consumers—golfers, cyclists and runners—and promises to offer streams of performance-enhancing data, like heart rate and speed, to hardcore enthusiasts. The product will be shipped “this Fall,” according to co-founder and chief technology officer Hamid Abdollahi.

GROW Conference 2014
What to expect

“We realized that there’s dependency between the eyewear that sits on your face and the display that sits on the eyewear,” says Eisenhardt. “Having those two things will give us a competitive advantage, give us control and the brand that we need to building this business”

In the last year and a half, the company has received investments from Intel Capital and Motorola Solutions, the latter of which has a specific interest in law enforcement and industrial uses of consumer technology, according to Dan Eisenhardt. In total, Recon has raised $17 million to date.

While the company is still focused on sports, Recon is actively looking at new verticals; Jet was showcased at a Canadian law enforcement conference in August. “We’ll likely see use cases broaden,” says Eisenhardt. While Recon’s marketing of Jet has been quite specific to action sport, its technology platform allows Android developers to build new applications.

Recon Jet’s resemblance to another, higher-profile wearable—Google Glass—had led Recon to double down on its key market, action sports. Google Glass’ rocky rollout has ranged from spreads in Vogue to concerns that its technology is “creepy or rude” (never mind the ‘Glasshole’ phenomenon). Eisenhardt, for his part, has tweaked his messaging around Recon’s products in the wake of Glass: “before we might have thought that we could go out and sell this to anybody,” he says. “Now we’re very particular about not releasing a gadget that nobody knows what to do with.” But he’s quick to underline the benefits of riding Glass’s wave of publicity: “anything that can broaden the market category, we see as a complement.”