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Chronos Will Turn Any Watch into a Smartwatch (bloomberg.com)
183 points by prostoalex on Nov 8, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments



Recognizing that people like their existing watches is a great idea. The hardware looks really slick too.

The big problem, one that afflicts pretty much every smartwatch, is one of battery life. One of the great things about non-smart watches is that they run for years, not days. Chronos doesn't bypass this limitation (although one nice thing w/ Chronos is that if one forgets to charge, the main watch will continue to work).


The FitBit seems like the right product in the right category. The Chronos much less so and it seems like the same product with a different form factor -- with restricted battery life as you point out. It's only a matter of time before other form factors emerge as this space saturates--a ring, a watch bracelet add-on, ankle bracelets and so forth.

The only winner in my mind is the FitBit or similar. I have owned the Apple Watch since launch and I absolutely hate it's battery issues. Not to mention that I consider the product slightly flawed. I don't need or use it's calendaring, stocks, weather or most other apps that have much better UX right on my phone, which is always with me and the Apple Watch needs to be connected to in any case. It just seems so coerced.

> The big problem, one that afflicts pretty much every smartwatch, is one of battery life

I have always wondered if a FitBit or similar device can operate in low power mode and manage to charge itself during running or similar vigorous activities. Or if wireless charging will ever get to the stage that if I am in close proximity to my laptop, my watch and phone can start charging themselves wirelessly. Or even some kind of a magnetic latch that can do away with charging cables so I can just tack my phone onto my Macbook and have it charge. Fun times ahead.


> The only winner in my mind is the FitBit or similar

Care to elaborate? While I do see that non-watch-lovers would see the value in fitbit, but I dont see a traditional watch-lover wearing FitBit along side his usual watch. The Chronos was a very specific market in mind: People who love mechanical watches, but would like some extra functionality in the same watch. They don't want a ring, a bracelet, etc. Chronos caters to them while being as unobtrusive as possible. I personally think that's a brilliant move


Myself, I don't use my watch when I sleep, so I don't mind charging it then.


But for a smartwatch you could actually be using it while you sleep. For example, using it sleep tracking, or for waking you via vibration (as not to disturb your partner), or even just allowing your phone to detect that you're asleep so it can turn on do-not-disturb.


I personally wouldn't like the feeling of wearing a watch to sleep, so I wouldn't use a smartwatch for sleep tracking.

I use my Apple Watch as a simple nightstand and alarm clock. It works well.


I love the fact that (while I'm doing a similar thing with my phone, and would also describe it as "a basic..."), the phone/watch is probably a million times more complex than any previous nightstand / alarm clock around.


> For example, using it sleep tracking, or for waking you via vibration (as not to disturb your partner)

Yes, the pebble is great for that.

> or even just allowing your phone to detect that you're asleep so it can turn on do-not-disturb.

Wouldn't it just be able to detect that if you plug it in at night?


Yes i started using Pebble last month. I like it. I had to charge once per week, charges within an hour and its not a smartphone juice drainer (i use BlackBerry Z10). Though number of applications and support is good in Android/iOS for obvious reasons.


Do you really need to wear a watch to bed for that? Why not something less obtrusive and comfortable, like a sweat band around your ankle? BTLE is cheap, i'd rather wear two devices with focused purposes than a clunky watch with an oversized battery.


Pebble is great for that. They went for e-paper-like screen and buttons instead of backlit screens and touch, and you can easily pull 5+ days of battery life while having it work as an actual watch (i.e. screen always on = time always visible).

Myself, I don't mind multiple devices but not each with a single feature. I would also like them displaying things through the watch, and not just the phone.


My watch (with mechanical hands, not digital) has some kind of kinetic energy generation, it has run for years and years without stopping, charging or winding. I wonder if something similar would suffice for energy needs of a device like this with no screen to power?


> It has run for years and years without stopping, charging or winding.

A small point of note - it has been wound. But not by hand. It has a rotor (i.e. weight) in it that spins when you move, and this winds the watch.

http://i.imgur.com/VWvlDgH.jpg

> I wonder if something similar would suffice for energy needs of a device like this with no screen to power?

When I looked into it this was not possible. But of course, now that I've said that, someone's going to figure out how to do it.

I think that the trick would be customized silicon so it would be as lower power as possible. You'd also want to use super-low-power wireless technology to link it to your phone, and I think that the speed would be the tradeoff.


Just for comparison's sake, Withings Activite watches claim 8 months battery life and have a replaceable (CR2025) battery.

In practice I got ~5 months before I needed a replacement, but that's still pretty decent.

I'd say the comparison is apt given Activites are ostensibly analogue watches with basic activity/sleep trackers built in, with BTLE comms.


The Withings Activite watches sadly have no notification support, so no LED or vibration motor in the watch. That helps wonders for battery life of course.


Good points, although it does have a vibration motor but only for alarms.


I think that's the crux. Its core functionality (time keeping) is not nulled when you forget to charge. Also, battery life is 3 days (EDIT: 36 hours), apparently, so better than any other smartwatch out there! (EDIT: Except the pebble) Plus, it looks like it adds nothing to the current watch in terms of weight/volume!


The Pebble is able to for a week without needing to be charged. https://help.getpebble.com/customer/portal/articles/1564016-...


and when it runs to 0%, it goes into "watch only" mode for a day or so , where it just shows the time


oops. Forgot about that one, even though it's my favorite


3 days? TFA said 36 hours which is a day and a half.


Oops, I remembered wrong.


That's... a really good idea. Just reading over the article I was trying to find some issue with the Chronos, and I really can't. Half the utility of my pebble is it vibrates when I get a notification, which is really all you need. The LED aspect of it seems like a good solution for it's lack of screen.

The only issue I can see with the device isnt actually related to the device- it looks like it depends on proprietary standards, meaning it needs its own apps and hooks.If noone wants to support another smartwatch in their app, this is dead before it hits the water.


Agree totally about the Pebble vibrate function.

I hate hearing my phone ring and ALWAYS keep it on vibrate, but sometimes you don't feel a pocket vibration in your pocket.

After realizing a hated all of Pebble's apps, and not needing a watch face to tell time, Pebble just became a wrist vibration band for my text messages. But that feature alone is enough for me to keep the device around.


>> it looks like it depends on proprietary standards, meaning it needs its own apps and hooks.<<

I don't know what the situation is on Android, but on iOS they're connecting to the Apple Notification Center Service that was introduced in iOS 7. So I think Chronos will be able to respond to any app that generates iOS notifications.


How about something like this except make it as a watch strap? You could just replace your strap and not make your watch thicker (my pet peeve when it comes to watches). You could probably even have a larger battery and have it last for several days. Most watch straps are standard and either 18mm or 20mm. You'd also be sure it wouldn't fall off - I know they say the chronos won't fall off but come on, many people aren't going to trust micro suction.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1113076301/unique-make-... is a smart strap like you describe. Unfortunately it seems to be rather thick. I doubt it can look and feel as good as a thicker watch.


I think this idea misses a key element: "People are in love with their current watches". Someone who isn't willing to trade their watch for a smartwatch, isn't going to be ok with trading their strap either. Each dial has a different strap, and its part of the "watch" that they love.



Another really good alternative (in my opinion) would be if they made a replacement watch strap which has a round indentation for holding this disc in the center of the closed strap, so it would be tucked on the underside of your wrist.


Clever. Appeals to me: I have a scuba watch with a rubber strap, the only watch I've ever been able to wear comfortably for extended periods. I'm so used to it (and I miss it a lot when it goes in for service) that I will likely never replace it - despite having far more means than when I bought it, and some interest in smart watches.

Chronos means I get to keep it and get smart watch functionality. Cool.


Depends. I'm curious if waterproof includes scuba-depths. I feel like it doesn't tend to


No watch is "water proof", they are only water-resistant. The test goes like this: put the watch in a chamber full of water, pressurize it to the equivalent depth, bring it back to the surface, does it still work?

What this test overlooks is that that doesn't reflect how watches are used e.g. do the buttons stand up to pushing when at depth? Does moving your wrist cause the case to flex imperceptibly, etc? This is why diving watches have ludicrous depths on them, 300m and 600m, because you need that kind of static strength to stand up to normal use at 30m or 50m.

There is no way that this device will be suitable for scuba. Probably OK for swimming tho' as it has no buttons. But since it's removeable, as another diving watch wearer, I'm interested...


Oh, probably not, and I wouldn't chance it anyway.

After all, I wouldn't take my phone diving, why would I take Chronos?

(I wear my scuba watch everyday, it is during "out of water" activities that Chronos might be of interest.)


This hidden smart watch really captures what Mark Weiser meant when he wrote about Ubiquitous Computing in his Scientific American Ubicomp article "The Computer for the 21st Century" [1]:

"The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it."

"Such a disappearance is a fundamental consequence not of technology, but of human psychology. Whenever people learn something sufficiently well, they cease to be aware of it. When you look at a street sign, for example, you absorb its information without consciously performing the act of reading.. Computer scientist, economist, and Nobelist Herb Simon calls this phenomenon "compiling"; philosopher Michael Polanyi calls it the "tacit dimension"; psychologist TK Gibson calls it "visual invariants"; philosophers Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger call it "the horizon" and the "ready-to-hand", John Seely Brown at PARC calls it the "periphery". All say, in essence, that only when things disappear in this way are we freed to use them without thinking and so to focus beyond them on new goals."

"How do technologies disappear into the background? The vanishing of electric motors may serve as an instructive example: At the turn of the century, a typical workshop or factory contained a single engine that drove dozens or hundreds of different machines through a system of shafts and pulleys. Cheap, small, efficient electric motors made it possible first to give each machine or tool its own source of motive force, then to put many motors into a single machine."

Mark Weiser on Ubiquitous Computing: [2]

"Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives. Alan Kay of Apple calls this "Third Paradigm" computing."

[1] https://www.ics.uci.edu/~corps/phaseii/Weiser-Computer21stCe...

[2] http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/UbiHome.html


This is my mantra.


This is one step closer to when I think wearables will turn an important corner: when they're commoditized as OEM parts that can be built into enhanced versions of things you already want. Rings, shoes, bracelets. Oh, and when people resign themselves to wait another 5-10 years for parting the workspace from the device form factor.


I disagree completely. The players in those markets are so big that they are constantly on the look out for differentiation. It just so happens that in the watch market analogue is worth more than digital (ie $30k for a fancy time telling watch and $350 for an apple watch). Digital watches have been big for a while and so they have a designated place in the market. Digital rings, shoes, bracelets... not so much.


The equivalent of the $30K analogue watch is the $17K Apple Watch Edition. Most smartwatches come with analogue watchfaces standard, but it's really a new product category, so it'll be interesting how it evolves as a fashion accessory.


TBH, I don't entirely understand your point, so a reply is maybe out of order, butt ... :)

< The players in those markets

Wearable market = created by people who want wearables. Enhanced shoe market = created by portion of people who wear shoes.


players in those markets > example Nike: Nike makes shoes. They are looking for differentiation in that market. They have massive resources. So it makes more sense for Nike to make a new model that incorporates technology than it is for them to make something that attaches to their existing models (and presumably everyone else's).


This is an interesting twist on an idea I've had to bring the aesthetics of automatic-wind mechanical watches to the smartwatch world. The principles would be to have a power-source powered by the motions of the user - and notifications would be through mechanical movements of watch hands or whatever. Chronos tries to address the gap between what mechanical aficionados look for and smartwatches... but I think it misses the mark.


Since it doesn't have a screen I don't think you can call it a smart watch.

It does seem like it could appeal to some people who don't need the convenience of reading a text or app notification from a regular smart watch.


You could call it a bluetooth enabled pedometer with integrated vibration motor, but that's of course not that marketing friendly. (I'm guessing it does a bit more than the above?)


Why does a smart watch have to have a screen?


That's the main buying point for me, a small screen on my wrist that can give visual notifications so I don't have to pull my phone out.


That's the main reason I haven't bought a smart watch.


And the main reason I didn't buy a tractor is because a tractor would let me to start a farm.

The point is, people have different needs. Some like getting notifications on their wrist. Myself, I like smartwatches more for the input side - ability to control stuff without interacting with the smartphone directly.

Also, that's good that some people just don't see the need for it. It means the tool is useful. I hate the trend that hit the mobile market (and already affects the smartwatches) that makes companies design for lowest common denominator - it means people like me, who would like to use a specialized, feature-laden device can't get anything, because they don't exist on the market.


The same reason a dumb watch has to have a display? I think most people will agree that a watch, smart or otherwise, must be able to tell you the time.


I don't wear watches. I don't wear smartwatches either. But I... I kinda want this. I want to stick it to the back of a pendant or something, and have a piece of smart jewelry.

Sadly I doubt it'd work well for the fitness tracking uses if I used it that way. It'd have to be on a wrist to track pulse and whatnot.


Similar project that just launched on Kickstarter: http://www.trivoly.com/


Check http://maintool.me

Very elegant, up to 20 days battery life. Fits on any watch


I wish I could get a fitness band that doesn't rely on a smartphone. I don't take my smartphone on runs with me. I don't have it on me when I'm working out... Pretty much any time I'd like to know my heartrate, I'd like to not have my smartphone on me.

I want one with a tiny LCD on it to show me my footsteps and heartrate, and I want to plug it into my computer and get a CSV. That's it. For the 99% of normal people who don't want to play with their data in python, you can give them a simple OTG cable and have your app do everything there.

I don't need a smartwatch to read me my text messages or buzz for notifications.


that product already exists[0], running watch have been around for many years and do exactly that.

[0]: https://www.google.com/search?q=running+watch


Indeed. but I also want to listen to spotify while I run. Doesn't seem any of those can do that, but if I'm missing something I'd love to know. I also want that data to go into runkeeper.


When I saw this I immediately thought of the Xiaomi Mi Band. The Mi Band isn't meant to affix to the back of a watch but otherwise the two devices are feature equivalent. They both have a vibrator, an array of multicolored LEDs, accelerometers, and Bluetooth. The primary differences being battery life and software.

While they're radically different form factors, they appear to be similar in volume. The battery life on the Mi Band exceeds 30 days which makes me wonder why this thing can only manage 36 hours.

Speaking of software, this thing seems to do everything I wish the Mi Band did. The Mi Band is such a waste in this regard.


2.5mm is too thick. Thickness is an important criteria on watches for me, so the idea of adding 2.5mm to a watch with a thickness of 13mm is not very appealing.


The Pebble is useless to me because you have to dismiss every notification twice: once on the phone, once on the watch. I like getting notifications on the watch when my phone is in my pocket, but when carrying on an extended iMessage conversation I have to deal with notifications on all 3 of watch, iPhone, and computer.

Does anyone know if there is a way to solve this problem?


yes, a setting. (Are you running the latest version of app?) Also Pebble Notification Centre is a good alternative.


I wonder if I could just stick it to the back of my hand or inside of my wrist with a gentle glue, since I don't wear a watch.


I'll tell you where to stick it... to your phone.


This is absolutely perfect for my needs. I've wanted a smartwatch solely to be able to track exercise and steps, but I have been unimpressed by the aesthetics of the current offerings (square design of the Apple watch, the tacky looking FitBit).

The notifications system (simple vibration & optional LED) seems discreet as well.


Have you checked out the Microsoft Band 2?


I've never been able to use my smartwatch (Pebble) frequently enough. It's a combination of battery life and the fact that it doesn't look enough like a real watch. This might change that for me.


I like the idea. Like others have said here, the Pebble is nice for the notifications. I've been curious to try something that acts solely as a notification device such as this. It could be very discrete, placed in a band on the upper arm or around the ankle (if you want to keep track of steps). I wish the battery life were longer (that way I could use it as a sleep device as well, but I think with it's life of ~36 hours, I could probably work with it), but I like the concept, and look forward to it being compatible with Android.


This interests me. I originally wanted to get a Apple Watch but I am not a fan of their overall look. I like traditional watches.


What do you think of the Pebble Time Round? Thin, round, and an unbacklit display.


I just could never get into the Pebble's look. Knowing I can get a classic watch and turn it into the things I'd use an Apple Watch for is pretty appealing to me.


Great idea.


Odd that I got 2 downvotes for "great idea."


I.e. only 2 downvotes?

I sometimes too want to express my appreciation for something with more than just an upvote, but find myself without anything insightful to say. The current solution is to get an "yes, it's ok to just upvote" counseling, but I sometimes wonder if there isn't something to improve there.

Upvotes signal everything from "it's a great idea!", through "oh, cool", to "headline looks interesting, I want to save that for later reading". On the other hand, since posting "it's great" doesn't seem like much of a contribution, even the best ideas (or Show HNs) end up having lots of criticism in comments here, despite that most HNers may actually really like it. A way to signal "it's a great idea" besides upvotes could correct the comment bias.


Here's how it should work, IMO:

(1) An upvote signals a positive sentiment

(2) A downvote signals a negative sentiment

(3) A subject's "newsworthiness" is measured by the sum of upvotes and downvotes (i.e. 5 upvotes and 5 downvotes = 10 newsworthy points)

(4) A subject gets buried by measuring the square of the difference between downvotes and upvotes, divided by total votes squared (i.e. 5 downvotes and 1 upvote has a newsworthy score of 6, but it will have a "bury" score of (5-1)^2 / 6^2. This would only apply to subjects with more downvotes than upvotes.

Currently, upvotes end up being a mixture of "positive sentiment" and "newsworthy" -- there needs to be a method of distinction between those.


Useless tat




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