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APTOS — A simple 5-inch-wide bracelet that attaches to the wrist by Velcro straps is the mobile phone accessory that will revolutionize the way we do work, say the co-founders of WristOffice, a young Aptos startup that has recently landed a deal to sell its product in a national recreational sports retailer beginning in summer.
“This accessory is really going to change how people operate and how people work,” said co-founder Ellen Manzo, who is handling company sales and working on the next generation of designs aimed at women and teens. “We’ve taken the equivalent of a laptop, a camera, a cell phone and a device that has sensing devices and put it on a body part. Once you do that, a whole new suite of applications opens up.”
The 4-ounce accoutrement, which has a patent pending, was invented as a wrist and forearm docking station and carrier for mobile electronic devices last year. It was designed by Walt Froloff, an Aptos patent attorney who said he was tired of dropping his cell phone when he was riding his bicycle around town. Froloff has several science and business-related degrees and became licensed to practice law in 2005. He is the author of two books related to artificial intelligence and has a dozen patents on other inventions including a cable organizer, an electronic voice pad and utility ear device, a smart traffic signal station, a hypodermic stitching needle, solar devices and products involving artificial intelligence.
“I wear it while
I’m on SWAT calls because I have so many things going on,” says Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Bob Pursely, who has been wearing one of the prototypes ever since he ran into the company co-founders at the Pacific Roasting Co. in Aptos a few months ago. “My phone is also my map. I can bring up Google Earth. I get e-mail. I get phone calls. I get text messages. It’s good to have it all right there. When I have all my gear on, I can’t put my phone in a pocket.”
Pursely says he attaches it to his steering wheel to turn his Blackberry into a hands-free device as well.
“I have all the information I need literally at my hand,” he said.
The design has evolved in the past two years since Froloff first tore up an old wrist guard and riveted something together. What makes the WristOffice different from other strapped holders that attach to the wrist or upper arm is a rotating swivel attachment that allows the user to spin a harnessed mobile device so it can be more fully utilized.
“It is a solution for people who really need three hands,” says Stan Weitzman, who is handling the company’s marketing and business development. “If it’s on your wrist, you can just push a button.”
The co-founders, who have invested their own money into the company and drawn some capital from friends and family, hope to reach sales of more than $1 million by next year. They plan to build them in China to cut costs and sell them for $29.95 each. Primary markets include sporting and outdoor recreation, the military, travelers, women’s market, the telecom industry and people with disabilities.
“We do think the apparel industry is going to catch on to this in a big way,” said Manzo, who was sporting a bright pink strapped prototype aimed at the teen market. “College students who have a tendency to lose cell phones — their parents are going to love this. Skateboarders are hopefully going to wear this on their wrist.”
That’s a lot to ask of a few Velcro-attached straps with a rotating swivel feature.
But Froloff insists it will soon be as ubiquitous as the wristwatch. “Everybody in the world wears a wristwatch. What this really is is a computer, plus we leverage the high tech power of the mobile.” It will, he promises, help the cook read a recipe on his wrist, the traveler have a map at the ready and a couch-bound reader find definitions in a dictionary on their wrist. “There are so many apps that are with you.”
The co-founders have also visited injured veterans groups such as the Wounded Warrior Project to see how their product could be adapted to help them do tasks that require a hand that they either don’t have free or have at all. Manzo hopes to raise contributions to put a WristOffice on every “Wounded Warrior.”
WHAT: A privately held California corporation that designs and manufactures bracelet-like apparel that allows a user to attach a mobile device to the wrist.
HEADQUARTERS: P.O. Box 444, Aptos, CA 95003
BACKGROUND: Founded in 2009
LEADERSHIP: Walt Froloff, inventor and patent attorney; Stan Weitzman, chief executive officer; Ellen Manzo, executive vice president of sales
EMPLOYEES: Three co-founders and miscellaneous contractors
FORECAST: The co-founders hope
to raise more than $1 million
by next year.
This article first appeared here.