Upcoming Innovations in Smartwatches: Modular Tech


It’s apparent that the age is moving on in more ways than one when it comes to smart gadgets. One such field to watch in terms of tech is the smart watch. Here are a few innovations in smart watch tech springing out of a modular approach that could totally transform the future in a short amount of time.

Modular Smartwatches to Save You Money and Make for a Greener Planet

The proposal of using modules in order to make smart gadgets more efficient has been out for a while now, but it’s looking a whole lotlike this tech will be resurgent now that several companies are looking to use it specifically in smart watches.

The idea is that the West has a lot of e-waste as old smart gadgets are discarded in favor of newer stuff, largely because of some new feature that obviates a particular feature in an old smart gadget. Therefore, the entire old gadget is then thrown way, even though it might still have useful qualities. The idea with modular smartwatches is to instead make it so that throwing out an entire gadget for one feature is no longer necessary because you’ll instead just swap out a part.

For example, maybe you want a certain feature, like a fingerprint scanner, for the top of your smartwatch. But, your watch doesn’t currently have this. Instead of purchasing a new watch entirely in order to get the feature, you could simply swap out a component on the watch face that doesn’t have this for one that does.

Or, maybe you want GPS in your watch, so you add a component that has this to a watch that does not. Alternatively, maybe your health monitoring component is old-fashioned and you want something newer. By swapping out the old for the new, you both get a watch that’s functionally newer with the new feature now, but you also still have the old component. You can then sell this component to others instead of throwing it away. Or, you can swap the component for a different one that you might want instead. In this way, you’ll save money and you’ll also contribute to filling up e-waste sites much less.

Modular Example: Blocks

The Blocks program was crowdfunded and so is still largely in beta stage. This particular company uses the approach of using the watch band segments as component segments for the watch. So, in other words, you have a major watch unit at top, which has a lot of the main functioning of the watch in it, as well as the part that you actually look at, the screen, and then you have three sections that make up the watch band part, except each section is a module that does something. There might be a health sensor unit here, for example. One might have a flashlight in it.

So, while it’s true that this means Blocks is not truly 100% module since much of the main functioning is in a single piece, it’s still a solid step in the right direction. Eventually, the idea would be to make it so that the processor of the phone was swappable as well since this is the piece that is most likely to become defunct over time.

Plus, another advantage worth mentioning is that with this approach, you can have more modules than you need, so that you can swap them out based on whatever is rational at the time. So, maybe you like the modules you have in the watch currently, but then it’s getting dark, so you swap out a heart monitor after you complete your run through the woods at night for a flashlight module. Perhaps you are growing low on battery power, so then swap out another module for an extra battery pack section. When you get lost, you can swap it out for a GPS module, and so on.

Health Monitoring and Other Options to Save Your Life

As modules grow smaller and smaller from improvements to chip size, you’ll be able to more easily contain health monitoring functions just about anywhere. You could have a situation where the modules are making up an entirely new device of sorts. So, instead of a watch or a phone, maybe your entire clothing is smart and full of modules that fill in for your belt, for buttons, and so on.

That way, you can wear your health monitor all the time, since it will fit well into your smart watch, but you’ll still have options for putting other modules you may need in the guise of other clothing items you wear on you like rings, earrings, or even sewn into your clothing. That way, you could have full functionality without needing to reach for a secondary smartphone. Another important possibility for these modules is that they could be programmed to perform various things based on your hand gestures. You could call 911 with a wave of your hand, for example.

Modular Options in the Near-Future

Other companies such as Apple have been talking about using this approach as well for their smartwatches. But, it’s not just smartwatches, it’s also anything that could benefit from increasing technological change. There are smartphones that are thinking about trying this too. Even Google was trying it with their Google Aria project, though that project has since gone into dormancy. There’s certainly plenty of reasons to believe that it will eventually come back. After all, the first pass at integrating a completely new and different technological concept is often rife with problems, and then a new pass at it can really run away with the market.

The idea still remains though, and it will likely affect the future in multiple different ways since it’s the best approach for continually gaining new capabilities without breaking the bank. In terms of options that are happening now, there actually are a few that use the approach in minor ways, such as the LG 20, or the Moto Z. These approaches are more broad, however, since it’s more extra modules that you put onto the phone, such as to give it a better camera. In the case of Moto Z, this would be a camera grip instead of whatever was in the module before, or you could put in a high-level amp for boosting sound.

The consensus is that the mods are still a bit over-expensive, but the point is that the concept appears to be taking off again. The Blocks Smart Watch approach and the minor successes it had also show the possibilities of the near-future for modular ideas.

The Long Future of Modules

As time continues to move onward, the skies the limit. A 3d-printing approach could mean that we print out our own module sin the future after someone designs a particular module online. Then we could pop it into a basic smartphone or smartwatch unit, and immediately be off to use it.

Plus, it may not be just watches and phones that have this approach. As technology speeds up more and more, the need to economically upgrade just about everything could take over. Perhaps we’ll even be swapping out modules in our very bodies for upgrades that make us faster, stronger, smarter and so on.