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Pretty smart for a dumbbell
Lifting weights is getting easier, thanks to new dumbbell technology that allows a single handle to carry a variety of weights at the press of a button. There are plenty of options for adjustable dumbbells on the market, but Ballymena-based Atlas Smart Technologies plan to take this technology further with their smartphone-enabled Atlas Smartbell. They are just beginning their innovation journey, but their work has already won £10,000 in backing from Queens Students Union’s Dragon’s Den competition. Peter Gillan, head of Atlas Smart Technologies and a mechanical engineering student at Queens, believes their innovation will allow people to receive personalised strength training from the comfort of their living room.
The Atlas Smartbell will offer two dumbbells, each with an electronic weight-locking mechanism and cradle. The locks automatically engage when the user sets a dumbbell into its cradle and selects a weight on their smartphone. Changing a dumbbell’s weight will take less than a second.
Integrating an app with dumbbell technology allows users to craft custom workout routines that meet specific fitness goals – such as lifting for aesthetics or strength. They can tell the app how much time they have for workouts each week, and an algorithm will develop an appropriate routine to encourage continuous muscle growth and peak performance.
So far, Atlas have developed a minimum viable product (MVP). This manually adjustable dumbbell uses a novel mechanism to offer twice the number of weight increments as existing competitors. Meanwhile, technology lead Jack Fullerton is working to develop their workout tracking app, Stronger. Manufacturing lead, James Logan, is working to prepare the Smartbell for an anticipated official launch at the end of 2022.
Atlas Smart technologies completed Innovate NI’s online assessment and we have awarded them with a Silver Level Innovator Award for their achievements to date. Atlas Smart Technologies is following the four-step Innovation Framework to bring this innovation to market.
Smart dumbbells already exist on the market, but these products use a telescopic dumbbell handle to pick up the weights. This mechanism forces the user to add plates sequentially. Atlas found that this was a problem for users and limits the number of weight levels they can offer. So, Atlas worked with potential customers and users to generate ideas that could solve it.
Atlas’ discussions with users and partners allowed them to filter ideas and decide on a potential solution. They selected an approach that uses locks inside the dumbbell plates to adjust the dumbbell's overall weight. The user presses a button on the side of each plate to lock it onto the dumbbell handle. This functionality means that users can add plates non-sequentially – that is, they can add the first and third plates without adding the second one. Jack is working on the app to control this functionality.
Development & testing
Atlas visited multiple customers with his innovation to validate Atlas Technologies' approach, but this is just the beginning. With their MVP in hand, Atlas plans to launch the product on Kickstarter.com. They will use this exposure to test market demand before establishing manufacturing partnerships. They have also been developing prototypes to trial with their target market. They want to use the feedback to refine their concept and ensure that the product can achieve a product-market fit quickly.
After this market validation, Atlas Smart Technologies will develop a “works-like” prototype to demonstrate the new dumbbell's functionality. This stage involves designing the electrical circuitry and servomechanisms to allow a smartphone app to control the dumbbell.
Next, they will develop a “customer representative” prototype with the full functionality and the visual appearance of the final consumer product. Creating this prototype will allow Atlas Technologies to design the dumbbell's manufacturing process and establish supplier agreements.
Atlas Technologies will run a coordinated public relations campaign to gain early traction on Kickstarter. They have already compiled a list of social outlets interested in the home fitness equipment niche. Atlas will reach out to these audiences in the month preceding the launch to access a broad customer base. Additionally, their Kickstarter launch will include a promotional video which they hope will help them reach their pre-sales target of 1000 units. Finally, the funds from their efforts on Kickstarter will allow them to tap into economies of scale and use custom tooling for their product, improving profit margins.
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The Innovation Accreditation Programme is open to all businesses in Northern Ireland. So, take the first step today – complete the innovation assessment like Peter did and discover where you are on the Innovation Framework.