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Building BLOCKS: The next step for the world’s first modular smartwatch

At the end of last week BLOCKS’ Kickstarter campaign came to a close, leaving the company with 6.4 times its original $250,000 goal in funding. So what’s next?

The smartwatch movement has made serious strides over the last 18 months. iOS users now have the Apple Watch to call their own, whilst the myriad of devices on offer running Google’s Android Wear operating system have become many and varied.

That is, unless you’re talking about the user experience and functionality on offer, which from watch to watch is almost identical across the board. This is where the BLOCKS smartwatch comes in.

BLOCKS press image 1

The London-based company is designing and building a modular smartwatch platform with the intention of creating a wearable that can do more than the competition and transcend the average consumer market into business, healthcare and beyond.

We spoke with Serge Didenko – one of BLOCKS founders, about the company’s plans for its debut wearable following such a successful fundraising period and unsurprisingly it’s a matter of supplying backers with devices first and foremost.

The basic BLOCKS smartwatch experience comes from the core, which houses a circular display (360×360), WiFi and Bluetooth radios, battery (400mAh), plus motion sensors and serves as a fully functioning smartwatch in its own right. It operates on Android (not Android Wear) as the platform can be tweaked to accommodate the module hardware setup that BLOCKS is founded upon, not unlike the Project Ara and Fairphone 2 modular smartphones.

BLOCKS press image 2

The modules, which take the place of traditional watchstrap links, can be bought separately, expanding the functionality of the smartwatch thus giving it notably greater versatility and longevity over its competition. The company has already detailed a number of modules around launch with everything for extra batteries to passive NFC chips for mobile payments and heart rate sensors for 24/7 pulse monitoring. But as well as cooking up new modules in-house the vocal community that’s sprung up around the project is having its ideas heard as well.

Didenko is thinking big with BLOCKS, hoping that it’ll become the wearable platform of choice, “Our aspiration is to build the biggest offering in the way of features and sensors in the wearables market.”

BLOCKS press image 3

Looking forward, BLOCKS already has a solid manufacturing infrastructure in place in Taiwan, courtesy of the same supply chain responsible for around 90 per cent of the Android Wear smartwatches currently on the market. What’s more the company has support from the likes of Qualcomm and ARM, struck a partnership with British jewellery brand Tateossian (who’ll be making luxury module casings, including some studded with diamonds) and is in talks with carriers about adding eSIM cellular functionality with EE in the UK, AT&T Stateside and an as yet unnamed Japanese carrier who’ve also expressed interest.

Here’s one of the company’s more recent videos showcasing the prototype in action.

Provided the brand gets enough exposure, the proposition offered up by BLOCKS has the potential to change how consumers perceive wearables and the wider benefits of modular technology as a whole. Now we’re off to design a module that does the washing up.


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