Rip Curl rides wearable wave with smartwatch for surfers

Designed by VML Australia using Rackspace database-as-a-service

Surfers can use the Rip Curl watch to get stats on their session.
Surfers can use the Rip Curl watch to get stats on their session.

Rip Curl has launched a smartwatch for surfers that measures surf data and maps their ride on an interactive map.

The Rip Curl Search GPS uses satellite positioning and other sensors to measure wave count, speeds reached, ride and session distances. After syncing to an iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth or a desktop computer via a USB cord, surfers can view the data on a digital map and analyse data to gain insights into their performance.

The wearable device was developed for Rip Curl by digital marketing agency VML Australia. Rackspace has provided the cloud-based back end powering data collection and analysis with the vendor’s database-as-a-service (DBaaS) for NoSQL MongoDB.

“The capture and subsequent analysis of surf data presents endless possibilities and opportunities for us,” said Shane Helm, global chairman of Rip Curl’s watches and equipment division.

A close-up look at the watch.
A close-up look at the watch.

Rip Curl is not new to watches – for more than 20 years it has been making watches that provide information on tides and the best times and places to surf.

“But a few years ago we started to look ahead at what would be the driving force of our watch department for the next 20 years,” Helm told CMO Australia.

After coming up with the concept for the Search GPS watch, Rip Curl reached out to VML and discovered the creative agency had similar ideas for a new watch, he said.

Jeff Donios, technical director and architect at VML, said the entire advertising industry has taken notice of the growing excitement around wearable devices. But VML had been waiting for the right project before jumping on the wave.

“It’s really choosing the right wearable to provide to the right solution,” he said.

Data from the watch can be synced to PCs and Apple iOS devices.
Data from the watch can be synced to PCs and Apple iOS devices.

Waterproofing was a key consideration in the design of the watch, which is built to withstand many different kinds of waves and hold tightly to the surfer’s wrist, said Helm. Rip Curl also wanted to create a watch that was simple to use despite having many complex features, he said.

Rip Curl tendered the Web and application side of the project to a few vendors, but VML gave a strong recommendation for Rackspace, said Helm.

“Using ObjectRocket for Rip Curl Search GPS helps us capture data and provides deep insights into surfing patterns and behaviour. We can then offer improvements to the surfing community, as well as help refine our own offering to surfers.”

Helm also highlighted ObjectRocket’s ability to handle sudden bursts of demand. “If demand peaks or falls for the service at different times of the year, we have a solution that will automatically adjust with us and is managed by experts. It is highly cost effective with 10,000 users, 100,000 users or 500,000 users – wherever they are in the world.”

Donios said Rackspace ticked the boxes for a service that could be scaled up to meet demand. From a price perspective, choosing a cloud vendor allowed Rip Curl and VML to keep costs small initially, increasing them as the customer base expands.

“We wanted to focus on the application and the algorithms, and tuning the watch and tuning the platform,” he said. “We didn’t want to worry about servers and memory and disk space and things like that.”

The Rip Curl Search GPS watch will be available in mid-September for $499 from more than 850 outlets in Australia where Rip Curl products are sold.

Rip Curl plans to add syncing support to other mobile platforms in the future, with Android the first priority, said Helm.

Adam Bender covers digital marketing and emerging technology for CMO and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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