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Are Smartphone-Connected Sex Toys the Next Big Thing?

Is your sex life in a need of a little connectivity?
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Is your sex life in a need of a little connectivity?

Well, a number of companies think they have the answer -- sex toys that can be controlled from your smartphone.

With items ranging from light bulbs to watches now "connected", it was perhaps only natural that vibrators followed suit. The firms behind the toys are trying to solve a number of problems such as long-distance relationships.

"If one partner is away and the other is at home they can connect and share intimacy remotely," Frank Ferrari, president of standard innovation at We-Vibe, told CNBC by phone.

We-Vibe sells several devices that connect your smartphone with aspects such as vibration able to be controlled from your handset. It works over distance too, allowing someone in another location to control the sex toy. The app that is used to control the device also comes with a videolink feature allowing people to see each other too.

$16 Billion Market

The opportunity for these devices to take off could potentially be big. The global sexual wellness market, which includes the likes of condoms, lingerie and sex toys, is worth around $16 billion and set to reach $21 billion by 2019, according to research firm TechNavio. And firms are jostling to get a slice of the pie.

But are people even comfortable using these features yet?

"No, not yet," Soumyadip Rakshit, CEO and Co-Founder at MysteryVibe, told CNBC at an interview ahead of the Web Summit technology conference in Dublin.

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U.K. start-up MysteryVibe produces a vibrator made up of modular blocks to allow users to manipulate the shape of it to their liking.The next edition of its "Crescendo" device will have motors in each module in order to customize the vibration pattern via the app.

But Rakshit said that his focus is on this device being used as a normal toy with the connectivity an extra option for people if they want.

"People are not looking for more apps. They don't want a tracker on their sex life but they do want more pleasure," the co-founder said,adding that the ability to connect to the smartphone is to let people find the right settings for them.

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Rakshit said he is trying to market the £129 Crescendo as a luxury product, that comes with a discreet travel bag and upmarket looking box, so people don't feel this is necessarily a tech device.

We-Vibe however said its app was seeing traction. Last year,1.5 million people used the app and 25 percent of those used it eight or more times.

Bad for Relationships?

But could the increasing use of tech in the bedroom be to the detriment of relationships? A campaign has already been launched to highlight the potential "harmful" effects of having sex with robots, as companies rush to develop robots that can be used as sexual substitutes for humans.

However, one expert said that these devices will increase intimacy between couples, as long as they are not used as a substitute.

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"Toys connected to the smartphone are encouraging intimacy. It's using what we have to enhance experience rather than in place of human contact," Rebecca Dakin, author and sex expert who runs the "Great British Sexpert" website, told CNBC by phone.

The Connected Bedroom

MysteryVibe's Rakshit said that his sex toy and others can fit into the broader "Internet of things" -- or connected devices -- world. He said the company is looking into ways to incorporate sensors into the sex toy that could detect heat, for example, in order to measure arousal. This could in turn connect to a smart air conditioning system and trigger it to come on, or even a music system in order to play music.

"Everyone likes songs they like to have sex to, if we can take that song, turn it into a vibration then that's what we want to do," Rakshit told CNBC.