Three Oklahoma City siblings are bringing Bluetooth to motorcyclists by integrating the technology into the helmet, freeing riders from clumsy cell phone calls and cumbersome headpieces. Blutek, the siblings' locally based company, is the only entity in the U.S. market offering integrated helmets, according to Tasha Koranki, one of the founders.
Blutek was incorporated last November 2007 by Reza, Tasha and Michael Koranki. In late 2007, Michael Koranki traveled to Guangzhou, China, to negotiate an agreement with a manufacturing company to produce the helmets.
"I went to China with the idea of manufacturing Bluetooth headsets," he said. "While there, I found a company that could integrate the technology. We did some R&D, developed a generation-one prototype, and have since modified the design. We're now selling generation two."
The Blutek helmets allow riders to communicate helmet to helmet, as well as run any Bluetooth-enabled electronic devices, including cell phones, MP3 players, and audible GPS systems.
Reza Koranki, the oldest of the trio, said the current profile allows for helmet-to-helmet communications between only two riders, but generation three " scheduled for release next summer " will expand that capability to as many as five users.
The siblings " who have been or are students at the University of Central Oklahoma " have information technology backgrounds, which contributed to their interest in starting Blutek.
"Our experience means that we're a technology company that makes helmets, not an accessories company adding technology," Tasha Koranki said.
The siblings are one half of a family business that also has a branch in Europe. That arm, based in Paris, is run by paternal cousins.
"Our European side had the helmets before we did," Reza Koranki said. "We had to wait for Department of Transportation certification. Once we got that, we were ready to go, because we already had the more stringent European safety and communications certifications."
FCC, DOT REQUIREMENTS
The helmets meet or exceed all Federal Communications Commission communications requirements and DOT safety requirements. Additionally, the helmets are designed for use with four Bluetooth profiles: hands-free, headset, advanced audio distribution and intercom. A profile is an interface specification that allows communication between Bluetooth-enabled devices.
"Basically, that means the helmets are only limited by the device's limitations. If your device supports a Bluetooth profile, you can use it with our helmets," Reza Koranki said. "The only problem we've encountered so far is from Apple products; the iPhone and iPods don't support (advanced audio distribution), but there are adapters available from Apple."
Michael Koranki said the company currently has about 1,000 helmets available in six different styles.
"Our goal is 32 designs in three shell styles," he said. "We'll have shell styles available in different price ranges."
All the helmets are equipped with noise-canceling microphones and can automatically initiate and terminate phone calls. The Bluetooth controller, about the size of a bottle cap, is on the lower left side of the helmet. The controller is multi-function, allowing for a low profile and ease of use.
"The safety benefits are obvious," Tasha Koranki said. "Everything controlled from one, easy-to-reach button means safer riding. In terms of comfort, it's great, too. You never need to put a helmet on over an adapter or earpiece. We're thinking about marketing to police departments as well, since the patrolmen are forced to slide a cell phone inside their helmets to make a call, unless they have one of those huge Bluetooth headsets with the wraparound microphone."
Blutek targets vendor sales rather than single-customer sales, and the helmets retail from $299 to $329. "Greg Horton