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EETE NOV 2015

Modular watch wants multiple shares of the wearable market WBy Julien Happich ith ongoing electronics miniaturisation, modularity takes a new meaning every day. English startup Blocks Wearables is taking design modularity to the realm of smart watches, offering users to choose and pick their favourite functional modules and assemble them together into a featureladen strap. The customized wrist strap then attaches to a watch display module (the Core), acting as the main information processing hub. Built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 processor, the Core ensures WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, it boasts a 1.35” round display (360x360 pixels resolution) to receive phone notifications (vibration motor included), it also supports activity tracking (integrated gyro and accelerometer) and voice control through an embedded microphone. It is the hub that collects and processes all the sensor data from the plug-and-play satellite modules composing the bracelet. Nevertheless, each Block contains an ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller that makes each module autonomous, freeing up the communication bus between modules from constant load, but also improving the overall battery usage. Marketed through a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the guys at Blocks Wearables bet on an open platform to encourage the development of custom modules by third parties for gaming, sports, healthcare, workplace or even experimental ones for academic research. The company is planning to release both a software development kit and a module development kit, it claims several partnership with major tech companies to develop more modules, with over 1,500 individual developers signing up for the module development kit. This wearable modularity concept with participative module development if very similar to what Google’s Project Ara would offer on a smartphone level, but also reminds me of another successful Kickstarter campaign by Nexpaq to build a modular smartphone case. All three projects share in common the intent to leverage a large community of designers to come up with new modules and apps and somehow, make their device future proof thanks to modular upgrades. Here the BLOCKStore would be a place for the company to validate and centralize newly submitted Blocks designs, enabling developers and companies to create and sell their own modules. Like for the Ara project, Blocks Wearables also anticipates that there could be a second hand market among Blocks wearers. Modules currently on the roadmap include an extra battery, a heart rate monitor, a GPS, NFC, an altitude pressure and temperature pack, a SIM card GSM module, a fingerprint sensor, a LED light, a programmable button, an air quality monitoring station, a camera unit, flash memory and a stress detection module (based on a galvanic skin sensor). But should this modular smart watch be successful among consumers, many more modules and applications could be developed, taking a bite into other wearables’ market pie. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe November 2015 13


EETE NOV 2015
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