Health and sports: Huawei’s new normal after US sanctions

Dongguan (China), Jan 13 (EFE) .- Huawei technology company inaugurated a research and development laboratory in southern China to promote its sports and health devices as an alternative source of income to that of ‘smartphones’, where it has lost ground due to its problems with the US authorities.

The 4,680-square-meter laboratory is focused on research in these fields and its facilities house 80 experiments for researchers to develop new smart products for sports or health monitoring.

TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO SPORTS

The facilities, to which EFE had access and in which the Chinese company has invested 200 million yuan (31 million dollars, 27 million euros), include rooms such as a laboratory capable of recreating the conditions of an environment located at 6,000 meters high to measure the effects of oxygen saturation on the human body.

The badminton and basketball court is equipped with 28 high-speed infrared cameras to capture athletes’ movements «to the millimeter» and thus develop «new functions» for their wearable products, company sources said.

Likewise, there are similar facilities at the center to detect and study the movements of practitioners of sports such as swimming, climbing or golf and activities such as yoga or tai chi.

A NEW SITUATION

The inauguration of the center took place in the fall of 2021, a difficult year for the Chinese company in which its turnover fell by 29% year-on-year mainly due to the effects of US sanctions, which Washington justified in alleged ties with the Chinese army.

As a consequence, the firm lost access to components and technology developed in the North American country, whose market it also had to abandon.

Previously, Huawei had reached its position as the world’s largest smartphone seller for the first time in the second quarter of 2020.

According to Chinese and international media, the company has a reserve of an undetermined number of chips acquired before the sanctions to build telecommunications infrastructure, one of its main businesses, or to keep alive its production of new models of smartphones in the hope of that, in the future, sanctions be lifted or find a new way to get chips.

However, depending on its ‘stock’, it cannot produce phones on the same scale as it did before the sanctions, a problem that it does not have in other products such as watches or smart bracelets, which need less sophisticated microchips available in China. and not subject to blockades.

Indeed, the company’s rotating chairman Guo Ping in October acknowledged a «significant impact» on Huawei’s consumer business, but vowed to remain «committed» to innovation or research and development activities, both of which they are applied in the new laboratory to a sector in increasing demand.

AN OPPORTUNITY IN A GROWING SECTOR

Shipments of wearable devices grew by 9.9% in the third quarter of 2021 to reach 138.4 million worldwide, according to the IDC consultancy, and bracelets, the products most associated with health and sports, they represented 34.7% of the market.

The covid-19 pandemic, according to the consultancy, has increased interest in products such as bracelets with sports and health applications, although, he assured, these were not unrelated to the problems in supply chains in the third quarter of 2021 .

In a quarter marked by these supply problems, Xiaomi, which had positioned itself as a leader in recent times in the wristband sector, was overtaken by Huawei itself and Apple, which took the largest market shares in said quarter, according to IDC.

Huawei hopes to get a piece of the pie that represents the physical exercise sector in China, which generates a business volume of 7.1 billion dollars (6.292 million euros) each year, according to the Chinese consultancy Daxue.

Not surprisingly, the Asian country has experienced a sports fever in recent years: the number of gyms has skyrocketed from 500 in 2001 to almost 50,000 at the end of 2019, and it is estimated that some 68 million Chinese 4.9% of the population go to these places.

Despite its rapid growth, the proportion of users of «fitness» services in the country is still very far from that existing in Western countries such as the United States, where it reaches 20%, which, according to Daxue, «represents a huge Market opportunity».

Alvaro Alfaro

(c) EFE Agency