Wednesday 28 September 2016

Apple Watch: Two young inventors take on tech giant with 'modular' Blocks

Rebecca Burn Callander

Published 14/10/2015 | 12:29

BLOCKS, the start-up launched by two bioengineers from Imperial College, London, has unveiled a new smartwatch that it founders claims could rival the Apple Watch.

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The design, which allows users to customise their watch completely, adding modules such as extra battery life, GPS navigation, and contactless payments, has been in development for two years.

BLOCKS founders Serge Vasylechko, 26, and Alireza Tahmasebzadeh, 22, claim the new design eradicates the need to buy a new smartwatch every time technology moves on - because you can just clip on a new module.

"BLOCKS is different to any other smartwatch on the market, including the Apple Watch," said Mr Vasylechko. "We have created a smartwatch that is suitable for everyone, and one that will grow with them as technology advances."

While Apple fans will always choose to buy an Apple product, the pair claim that they are opening up the wider smartwatch market. "We attract users who like choice, customisation, sustainability, and more features and sensors," said Mr Tahmasebzadeh. "BLOCKS will be the last smartwatch you ever need."

BLOCKS today launched a Kickstarter campaign for the smartwatch on the US version of the site. The venture is aiming to raise $250,000  from armchair investors.

The rewards range from $195 for the core watch and strap with no add-ons, to $7,800 for a mega pack of 30 BLOCKS watches complete with all available modules - there are five currently available.

Two more modules will be unveiled later on in the crowdfunding campaign to boost pledges.

The global smartwatch market is predicted to be worth $32.9bn by 2020, according to Allied Market Research.

Smartwatch sales have not reached the dizzying heights expected so far this year, however.

Apple sold 3.6m of its watches in the second quarter of 2015, and is likely to fall considerably short of the 40m units it was expected to sell this year.

Android smartwatches have also performed poorly, with IDC’s worldwide quarterly wearable device tracker stating that Samsung, the biggest seller of Android smartwatches, only sold 600,000.

The BLOCKS founders claim that the issue lies with the lack of choice on the market. "We want to give freedom back to the user and allow them to decide what features are most important to them," said Mr Vasylechko.

The BLOCKS watch has been created in partnership with Taiwanese manufacturing giant Compal Electronics, which makes laptops for Acer and Lenovo. It also uses components designed by ARM, the semiconductor maker, and US telecoms firm Qualcomm.

BLOCKS is an open platform, so that any company or individual can develop modules. New additions to the range will include modules for gaming, sports, healthcare, the workplace, and experimental ones for academic research, the founders claim.

BLOCKS was one of the finalists at the Duke of York's start-up event, Pitch @ Palace, in 2014. The company was voted one of the most commercially viable companies at the event.

It has received an undisclosed amount of seed funding from private backers to get the smartwatch from prototype to final design.

Telegraph.co.uk

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