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Lightspeed Newsletter: Reviewing the Cudis smart ring health tracker

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If there’s one thing I love, it’s getting to play with a new gadget, which is exactly what I did with today’s edition and the Cudis smart ring, or as my roommates have taken to calling it: the crypto ring.

My take on the new Web3 wearable:

Solana smart ring Cudis very much a work in progress

Cudis is a new smart ring tracking health data and offering an AI health coach while also planning to encrypt data and offer token incentives via the Solana blockchain.

The startup has a kickstarter feel to it — it sold out its first batch of 1,500 discounted rings in 10 days in early May. Cudis has sold over 3,000 of its second tranche of 8,500 rings, CEO Edison Chen told me. Chen said the current Cudis app is “nothing close” to a final version because the team wants to build the app “together with the users,” applying their feedback along the way.

I wore the Cudis ring for a week. The ring and its associated app seemed to track my data accurately, but the team’s build-the-plane-as-you-fly mentality has drawbacks that show in the app’s unfinished feel.

On a more disconcerting note, the app’s AI coach was tracking parts of my health data that it possibly wasn’t meant to be tracking, I learned. The app’s hardware was communicating my blood pressure and blood oxygen levels to my AI coach, which caught Chen by surprise in our interview.

Chen started working on Cudis in August 2023. Before that, he worked at Chinese venture capital firm Plum Ventures and personally invested in consumer tech, he told me.

In its current form, the Cudis app displays user sleep, steps and heart rate. An AI chatbot can offer health advice. There’s also a “points” tab where users can earn tallies for using the ring — presumably for a future token airdrop. Cudis’ website says an airdrop will happen in Q3 2024. 

It’s facing a formidable competitor: Oura , the smart ring whose calling card is sleep tracking, was valued at $2.5 billion in 2022. 

If there’s one place Cudis can immediately beat Oura, it’s on price. Oura rings cost $300 plus a $72 yearly subscription to access much of its health data. Cudis costs 1.5 SOL, or roughly $200 at current prices, besides the potential for a future airdrop, which could put a further haircut on the price if users sell their tokens.

Currently, Cudis keeps health data off-chain. In a forthcoming update, it plans to engineer a way to encrypt user data in the ring and on the app, Chen said. The data will then be stored on Solana, and only the user will have the private key to access it. 

One benefit of this could be a data marketplace where users can opt into selling their data for things like market research, Chen said. He also plans to build out a social dimension for Cudis. 

The ring’s seven-day battery life and waterproofing are solid, but in my week using it, I found the Cudis app to be sometimes slow and unintuitive. The data seems mostly accurate but can take hours to update. A lot of the app’s data charts have vague labeling and don’t always load correctly. 

The sleep tracker reported implausibly that I have been awake for more than 30% of every night. Chen explained that this is because wakefulness is currently lumped in with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, something that will be fixed in a future update.

Troublingly, the AI bot also seems to have access to data it maybe shouldn’t. In our interview, Chen said “we are not getting the AI coach to tap into your data yet” and that the app would ask my permission for the AI bot to parse my health data in a future update.

But when I was asking it for health tips, the AI coach told me it thinks I’m overly stressed (mind your business, chatbot!) based on my heart rate variation and blood pressure. There is no tab for blood pressure on the app, though the hardware for tracking it is built in. 

The AI coach also gave me precise answers about my blood oxygen levels when I asked, which is another built-in feature that’s not yet meant to be live (as a note, I didn’t test the health metrics elsewhere, so the app could potentially be spinning up incorrect data). 

Chen said it “doesn’t make any sense” that the AI bot would know my blood pressure stats, and Cudis’ developer team would investigate the matter. 

Using token incentives while building out a product is a tested playbook. Solana Mobile sold a lot of phones based more on token airdrops associated with the product rather than necessarily for the Solana Saga’s usefulness as a phone.

But for Cudis, the building in public strategy has some messier questions involved, since privacy is a big selling point for the device, and it’s something the startup can’t afford to get wrong.

— Jack Kubinec

Zero In

So much infrastructure, so few usable apps:

That’s been a complaint from some in the crypto space , and this Q1 venture data from Galaxy Research showed that venture capital’s love affair with crypto infrastructure continued in early 2024 — led by a16z’s major bet on EigenLayer.

Still, the tides may be turning as more consumer crypto projects like Cudis hit the market. Farcaster’s $150 million raise in late May was certainly a positive indicator on that front — and I’d be on the lookout for whether VC investment in consumer apps will soon catch up to the money put into infrastructure.

— Jack Kubinec

The Pulse: Exclusive

Tweed, a Web3 digital payments startup, will power a new blockchain-based event registration platform for Intel Ignite — Intel Corporation’s global accelerator program for early-stage deep tech startups, the company told Blockworks exclusively. 

Event registrations typically rely on multiple third-party applications to manage attendee sign-ups, scheduling, and ticketing for in-person events. This approach often leads to fragmented data management and user experience issues, resulting in inefficiencies and security concerns due to the lack of integrated control over data.

Tweed is addressing these problems by building a fully integrated registration system on the Solana network. This platform will allow Intel Ignite to manage event sign-ups and scheduling internally, ensuring a seamless and secure user journey without the need for external applications.

The new system tokenizes each event ticket as a unique NFT, certified on the blockchain. All event data is verified, traceable, and securely managed. Mentored by Intel’s security teams, Tweed’s platform ensures no encryption keys are stored on their infrastructure, offering a self-custodial solution with seamless recovery options.

Michelle Latzer, co-founder and CEO of Tweed, stated, “Our goal with Tweed is to create a seamless and secure experience for every user. This product launch with Intel Ignite not only allows us to create that experience for the tech community and entrepreneurs, but also for an organization with which we have a deep personal connection.”

— Jeff Albus

One Good DM

A message from Edison Chen , CEO of Cudis:

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