A Columbia company has developed gloves that give skiers, bikers, or anyone trying to keep their hands warm the ability to answer their phone without ever taking it out of their pocket.
The gloves, which use Bluetooth and touch-sensitive pads on the sides of the fingers, were developed to help motorcycle riders or skiers use their phones without ever having to remove their gloves, according to the company's website.
One video posted on the company’s website shows a person cycling through Pandora songs on an iPhone while wearing the thick ski gloves, just by tapping their thumb against pads on the fingers. Another shows a person answering a call while keeping their phone inside a jacket.
The gloves work by syncing a Bluetooth module that is stored in a pocket on the back of a glove with a Bluetooth enabled phone as demonstrated in this YouTube video.
Willie Blount, the CEO of Blue Infusions and inventor of the gloves, is a Columbia resident and former Marine who wrote on Blue Infusion's website that he came up with the idea for the gloves after riding motorcycles for many years.
In an interview with Patch, Blount said the lightbulb first went off in 2005 or 2006 when he saw a fellow motorcycle rider putting music on an iPhone and then putting the phone in his pocket before a long ride through the Shenandoah Mountains.
"I asked him how he could control the music," said Blount, "but he told me he couldn't. I was a little jealous that he was able to listen to music, but I wanted to be able to control it."
He researched the products on the market at the time, but said he wasn't satisfied with any of the options, so he decided to come up with his own.
Blount said the biggest challenges to bringing the gloves to market has been financing and the fear that his idea would be stolen.
Blount, who has a day job working for the House of Representatives as well as a family, said it was also difficult to find time to develop the product.
"You have to forego something," said Blount, "and that thing is usually sleep."
However, the process has been rewarding, said Blount. It brought him back into contact with a cousin who became his business partner. As children, the two moved apart and lost touch, but after Blount started to run out of money, his mother told him to reach out to his cousin, Tarik Rodgers, who had worked on start-ups. When Blount reached out to him, Rodgers was immediately excited by the idea and helped to finance it.
Another big win came recently with the help of the Maryland state government.
The business received a $148,500 grant from the Maryland Industrial Partnership to collaborate with a research scientist at the University of Maryland, according to a report on Bmoremedia.com.