Foxconn eyes smart watches with wristband technology

Foxconn is a major supplier for Apple, a company rumored to be working on its own smartwatch

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou with other execs.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou with other execs.

Manufacturing giant Foxconn Technology Group also wants to ride the upcoming wave of wearable tech, and has unveiled a wristband that can monitor a user's health and sync with a smartphone.

When worn, the wristband can monitor a user's blood pressure, heart rate, and even diagnose the person's mood, said Foxconn CEO Terry Gou at the company's annual shareholder's meeting on Wednesday. Data on the wristband can then be displayed on the user's smartphone.

A demo of the wristband showed that after three minutes of use, the device will grade the user's health and diagnose the person's mood. The data collected can also be used to offer recommendations on how to improve users' health, or be shared on social networks or with health care providers.

It's unclear when the technology will arrive in the market. But Gou signaled that the wristband could be used on smart watches.

"Your phone has a big screen, so you will leave it in your pocket. A lot of information you can just look at your watch for," he said. "But the watch can also monitor your health."

Foxconn unveiled the device as rumors continue to swirl that Apple is working on its own smart watch. Foxconn has long been the maker of Apple's iPhone and iPad products, but the contract electronics supplier also counts Amazon, Sony and Microsoft as some of its other clients.

While the company is best known as a manufacturer, Foxconn is also focused on research and innovation, Gou said. It wants to hire 5,000 to 10,000 software engineers in Taiwan. In addition, the company is training its workers in mainland China to become technicians.

"We are doing these things so that we can prepare for the next generation of technology," he added.

Financially, the company is facing challenges. In the first quarter, Foxconn saw a 19.2 percent year-over-year decline in its revenue. Lower than expected demand for Apple's iPhone 5 has been cited by analysts as one reason for the revenue drop.

The company's falling stock price prompted Foxconn's CEO to apologize to shareholders on Wednesday, amid reports that the company is losing iPhone orders to rival manufacturer Pegatron.

Gou wouldn't mention Pegatron by name, but he said Foxconn's competitors were offering low prices to grab orders.

"Getting orders through low prices, is that really of any use? We want to use technology," he added.

Along with its wearable wristband, Foxconn also said it is pioneering the use of carbon nanotubes in touchscreen displays. The carbon nanotubes help make the touchscreens more durable, lighter and cheaper to produce over typical touchscreens that rely on Indium tin oxide as a conductive coating.

The manufacturing technology is already in use with many of Foxconn's clients, and will make touchscreens more prevalent, across all gadgets, including keyboards and entire surfaces of products, according to the company.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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