Four months ago, WeChat released an API (application programming interface) for connected hardware to develop applications running off WeChat public accounts. Recently WeChat decided to accept requests not only from established businesses but also from individual hardware developers. The integration process for these apps takes just two weeks to complete, according to WeChat.
WeChat hardware integration allows control over these products through WeChat public accounts and social features, taking advantage of the dominant mobile social service in China.
When WeChat released the API, several activity trackers (such as fitness and health trackers) became WeChat-connected so that users can follow their activity data, or see how well they or their WeChat contacts perform on the ranking chart. At Tencent’s annual partner conference this week, several more WeChat hardware products, in sectors such as healthcare, wearable and TV, were showcased to show what WeChat integration can do and what its potential is. Here are some examples.
Gaming hardware and software developer Razer launched fitness wristband Razer Nabu during CES 2014 earlier this year. Later in July it unveiled a WeChat-connected version.
Two Razer Nabu users can get connected on WeChat by “high-fiving” each other. When a WeChat message is coming in, Nabu creates an alert.
As Razer has a background in creating devices or services for gamers, it has produced gaming-related features for Nabu. Apart from notifications, Razer Nabu users can get virtual reward items by walking or exercising in real life. With the WeChat-integrated Razer Nabu, users can earn virtual rewards for Tian Tian Ku Pao, a popular running game on WeChat.
iHealth Blood Pressure Monitor
iHealth Labs’s iOS-connected healthcare gadgets are now being sold on Apple’s online store. iHealth, a Tianjin-based company, was one of the first hardware companies with which WeChat partnered, in order to figure out how to enable communications between hardware and WeChat.
iHealth’s activity-tracking wristband was of the first activity trackers WeChat unveiled when announcing the first API. Liu Yi, CEO of the company, introduced another portfolio product, a blood pressure monitor that works with WeChat, at Tencent’s partner conference.
Home-use medical devices are considered good presents for parents or elderly family members in China. Such devices that work with mobile apps have become popular among young Chinese consumers who are working far away from home, enabling them to be kept informed of the health status of their family members.
Now WeChat can make it even easier and more interactive. Blood pressure readings can be shared with WeChat contacts, and users can track the history of the data for the person he or she cares for.
TCL claims TV+, a TV model first unveiled in September that can be controlled by a WeChat public account, is the very first of its kind. For the TCL TV+, a WeChat public account has replaced the traditional remote control and has considerably more functions.
WeChat friends who are watching the same TV program can group-chat in real-time, with the messages posted through WeChat being shown on the TV screen of everyone in the chat group.
Chinese users have a lot of fun creating screenshots of all kinds. To simplifiy capturing screenshots of TV programs, TV+’s WeChat public account has added the feature. TCL has also thoughtfully enabled the capture of many screenshots in the 20 seconds before a user clicks on the button, for users to choose from.
As WeChat has speech recognition capability, the TV+ can be controlled by voice commands. Other functions include organizing your watchlist.