Third Skin

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Third Skin's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Third Skin is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

SimonAusten, founder and CTO
Building wearable technology for the post-smartphone
future is the ambitious goal for London-based start-up,
Third Skin Ltd. As a company, they believe their unique
perspective on this rapidly growing sector sets them apart from
competitors. The story of Third Skin began with a simple idea
developed over the last fours years that is about to finally enter
production in the form of a marketable product. Expanding on
this is a Review article written by Simon Austen, founder and
CTO of Third Skin.
The idea
In the course of a full day of coding and wearing uncomfortable headphones
came a serendipitous meeting with a hearing-aid wearer, who prompted the
following question: “Why aren’t headphones like this?” From that germ of an idea
we conceived Hy: wearable smart earphones with our patented wishbone driver,
designed to be worn all day without blocking the user’s hearing, allowing seamless
transition between the natural and digital world. This spawned a way of thinking
that rapidly opened up a huge number of possibilities.
We decided that we wanted to bring communication back to the fundamentals
of human interaction, by creating tools and solutions that empower people and
improve human interaction for
communication – something much needed
given that smartphones have taken over our eyes, hands and attention. In short,
a five-inch piece of glass with a ten-year-old interface has taken over our lives.
We believe that the products we are working on, beginning with Hy, are the next
Third Skin
»Founder and CTO:
»Established in 2015
»Based in London
»No. of employees: 3
»Corporate partnership with
OpenStreetMap project
Breaking the mould
in headphone design
Highlighting best practice
phase in the wearable tech revolution
that will consign the smartphone
screen to obsolescence and extinction.
As founder and CTO of Third Skin,
this is my dream. My academic
background in physics, professional
career in mobile media design and web
development, and lifelong passion for
the study of music offers me a unique
perspective on the development of
innovation in the communications
sector. Augmented reality wearables
was the inevitable next step, and thus
was born Third Skin Ltd in 2015.
Our philosophy at Third Skin is
straightforward: technology should put
your humanity first. We are building
wearables to augment our senses
with digital content, streamline digital
interactions and put the humanity back
into technology.
In 2017, Hy pre-launched on
Indiegogo, raising over $100,000 in
pre-orders from earlybird backers,
allowing us to begin to turn this vision
into reality. The biggest challenge
since then has been matching the
enthusiasm among our customer
base (who understand what we are
developing) with industry backers.
Raising the capital to take Hy into
production has been a difficult road:
investors are inherently risk averse,
especially in new hardware, where
the magnitude of a technological
advancement can be difficult to fully
realise. It can be difficult, for instance,
to satisfy a potential investor’s
apprehension in the absence of
working prototypes, and impossible
to create the necessary prototypes
without capital; an obvious Catch-22
for hardware developers. This means
that getting our point across often
requires a great deal of creativity,
something we feel we’ve mastered
with our live demo at the IdTechEx
Show in Berlin earlier this year.
Choosing to go the route of a start-
up rather than take our ideas straight
to the industry heavyweights has
not been without its setbacks, but
it has certainly had its advantages,
namely the freedom we have to
explore the full potential of our ideas.
We definitely feel that many of the
challenges we face could be easily
avoided if there is the political will to
embrace the possibilities of the UK
tech sector.
For example, there is a lot of debate
in the political sphere surrounding
net neutrality, data protection and
regulatory control of cryptocurrency
and blockchain tech. Our worry is that
politics has proven to be a woefully
ill-equipped and undereducated arena
for the discussion, understanding,
regulation and misuse of technology.
In 2017, Hy
on Indiegogo,
raising over
$100,000 in
from earlybird
allowing us to
begin to turn
this vision into
Hy is designed to be
worn all day
Events in this sector are moving too fast
for centralised control to be able to act
in an appropriate and timelyfashion.
In terms of hardware, huge strides
have been made by vendors to
simplify and lower the cost of
prototyping (Arduino, Raspberry Pi,
STM’s Discovery boards, among other
things), and the advent of 3D printing
has massively decreased the cost and
availability of physical prototyping.
Companies like Autodesk have
democratised the hardware design
process, and open-source software
is better than ever. However, being
able to create 3D prints and software
prototypes is light years away from
true design-for-manufacture and
production at scale.
There is limited assistance in the form
of companies that offer these services
to early-stage companies; virtually all
operate on a fee-based model, which
is untenable for the overwhelming
majority of hardware start-ups.
An ideal solution would see some
of the larger hardware companies
implementing the more collegiate
approach that the larger software
companies take with software
start-ups. For a comparatively small
investment of access to expertise and
facilities, most small hardware start-
ups would be more than willing to
share knowledge and licensing of their
technologies, assuming the terms were
fair. However, these opportunities
are few and far between: donations
to hackspaces and incubator
sponsorships don’t go far enough,
because the competition between us
for access (for relative scraps from
the larger companies’ tables) is too
intense. We need to be able to hack,
test and fail faster to bring out the
best in our collective resourcefulness.
Right now, however, every hardware
start-up faces a tormented struggle to
make any progress at all. This doesn’t
just stifle innovation; it drowns it
Naturally, the uncertainty over Brexit
is a concern for us and many other
start-ups. We feel that the possibility
of the UK leaving the European
Single Market presents a serious
challenge for new start-ups in our
sector, as well as to the economy as
a whole. Honestly, we’ve considered
abandoning the UK as our base of
operations and setting up in Europe,
because minimisation of uncertainty is
paramount in the start-up world. We
don’t doubt many other start-ups are
thinking the same.
In spite of all these challenges, we
remain optimistic. Our ambition
isn’t just building an enterprise;
we are creating what we like to
call an ecosystem of wearables
our vision for the near future of
digital communication. Hy is just the
beginning; with tools like this, we can
empower people to be better versions
of themselves – more human, to be
sure, but better connected than ever.
That’s precisely what we mean when
we say we want to put the humanity
back into technology.
Our ambition
isn’t just building
an enterprise; we
are creating
what we like to
call an ecosystem
of wearables,
our vision for the
near future of
Wearable tech: the end
of the smartphone?

This article was sponsored by Third Skin. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy