WeChat launched an API for smart hardware today. The first batch of gadgets on board are five activity-tracking wristbands from four makers, iHealth AM3, Codoon, Mambo and BonBon by Lifesense, and the one recently released by Huawei’s smartphone brand Honor.

It’s an open secret that WeChat has been figuring ways to involve smart hardware products. We heard that WeChat might introduce a solution from an Internet-of-things solution provider. WeChat itself would develop some application programming interfaces for smart devices to build applications on top of WeChat — WeChat has a public account system that has enabled businesses or organizations to build sophisticated web-based features for their accounts.

After scanning a QRcode, users will sign up to the public account of a gadget and be able to check activity data collected through the navigation menu in the WeChat account. They, of course, can share their data entries onto WeChat Moment, a social sharing service.

WeChat requires those gadgets to build two functions for their WeChat applications: one is friend ranking chart and the other enables users to communicate with customer service representatives directly, as reported by Tencent’s own online news site QQ.com (in Chinese). The second part must be easy since WeChat itself is a communication app.

Your friends who use any of the four gadgets will be on the ranking chart. Ranking charts have proved useful for increasing user engagement for some social games or social platforms. It’s unknown whether it will be so helpful for activity tracking, but at least the social element is WeChat’s, or Tencent’s, advantage attractive enough to developers.

JD.com, the Chinese online retailer that is operating WeChat’s Shopping channel, has a section on its website and WeChat just for smart hardware. It is said JD will help promote the gadgets who join in the WeChat hardware initiative.

It’s unknown whether or when WeChat will introduce other categories of smart gadgets. A handful of Chinese makers have built products or features by leveraging previous APIs WeChat rolled out.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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