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Innovative Step Counter Developed by NTHU Alumni
The smart bracelets that counts your footsteps are popular all over the world, but have to be frequently taken off for charging. However, a husband and wife team consisting of Mrs. Huang Hsi-wen and Professor Ma Hsi-pin, both graduated from NTHU’s Department of Physics over 20 years ago, have developed a “smartcube” that has the same capability but doesn’t need to be recharged for three years. It also has a positioning function and can be embedded in the heel of a shoe. It has sold well throughout the United States and is a fine example of the outstanding innovative products being developed at the Tsinghua Lab.
 
Recently a number of well-known brands of athletic shoes have been inserting smart chips into their heels, but the products available at present only count steps and are much more expensive than average shoes. By contrast, the product developed by Huang, one of the founders of Gyro Systems, also has GPS positioning, but without the high price tag.
 
Tiny Yet Powerful
 
Huang and Ma were formerly classmates at NTHU. After working separately for more than 20 years in business and academic, they decided to work together to develop a new product, and that’s how the smartcube came about. The chip is the size of a piece of candy and weighs only 7 grams. In conjunction with a mobile app, the smartcube tells you how many steps and kilometers you have walked, and where you were walking.
 
Professor Ma teaches at NTHU’s Department of Electrical Engineering, and provided Huang with technical assistance. He said that Huang was a diligent student, and that she used her solid theoretical foundation to overcome the limits of power consumption. Using four hours of walking per day as the basis, the chip doesn’t need to be recharged for three years, a total of 4,400 hours of walking.
 
Ma said that the cost of a chip is negligible in comparison to the cost of the shoes, and that it’s imperative to produce chips which are nearly 100 percent free of defects, since any problem with the chip will result in costly returns, and the brand’s reputation would be damaged.
 
The Challenges of Innovation
 
Overcoming various problems one by one, Huang and Ma managed to finally succeed in making chips which an American manufacturer has begun installing in its handmade casual shoes sold on a TV shopping platform. The manufacturer’s first order was for 20,000 chips, and four months later the second order was for 200,000; the next order is expected to be for more than one million. Presently a number of well-known manufacturers of athletic shoes have contacted Huang to discuss cooperation.
 
After recounting all the hardships involved in starting a business, Huang commented, “The road of entrepreneurship is full of difficulties; it’s not for everyone." However, Huang adds, “But if you are really set on starting a business, then you have to come to Tsinghua, where you’ll get all kinds of support.”
 
A Tsinghua enthusiast
 
Huang said that she first visited NTHU on a school trip during her elementary school years, and that she was so impressed with the beautiful campus that afterwards she set her sights on gaining admission to Tsinghua University.
 
While studying at NTHU, Huang was awarded the Mei Yi-chi Memorial Scholarship and eagerly participated in various activities. She said that her proudest moment was when she served as the captain of the NTHU Cheering Squad at the annual Meizhu Tournament, at which she also served as a scorekeeper and a member of the women's volleyball team. Her husband received the Academic Achievement Award three times.
 
After deciding to set out on the road of entrepreneurship, in 2015 Huang rented a space of 15 pings in the Innovation Incubation Center. The next year, the Tsinghua Lab was completed, and she was amongst the first batch of businesses to move in.
 
Huang Hsi-wen (left) and husband Ma Hsi-pin have jointly developed a trailblazing step counter.

Huang Hsi-wen (left) and husband Ma Hsi-pin have jointly developed a trailblazing step counter.

The step counter developed by Huang and Ma is inserted into the sole of a shoe and also has a GPS function.

The step counter developed by Huang and Ma is inserted into the sole of a shoe and also has a GPS function.

Jumping for joy in front of the Tsinghua Lab.

Jumping for joy in front of the Tsinghua Lab.

In conjunction with a mobile app, the chip calculates distance walked and also provides GPS functionality.

In conjunction with a mobile app, the chip calculates distance walked and also provides GPS functionality.

Producing a chip free of defects requires extensive testing.

Producing a chip free of defects requires extensive testing.

 

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