If you're the owner of a smartwatch, low battery is an issue that rears its head every other day. And even if you opt to pick up a more traditional looking hybrid smartwatch, you're subject to replacing a coin cell battery or charging after a few weeks.
The end goal for smartwatch makers, of course, is eliminating the issue of battery altogether. But what's the best way to do this — solar power, thermal energy? Well, Sequent is hoping that its kinetic powered hybrid timepiece can break through battery convention and provide users with infinite life.
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The Swiss startup is currently doing the rounds on Kickstarter, providing its watch for $189 — a significant snip off its eventual retail price of $438. We caught up with Sequent designer Adrian Buchmann to understand the tech behind the device, its inception and what's next for the company.
"When we began Sequent around three years ago, the idea started as a little bit of a joke," he says. "We're all watch lovers and worked in the watch industry for many years, and at that time we saw the first versions of the smartwatch. I remember seeing them and couldn't help feel that energy was going to be a problem.
"People get used to it, of course — I still remember having a Nokia 3310 and not having to charge it for three or four weeks, and now we have iPhones that need a plug after half a day. But with the watches, once you see a screen off because of no battery, it looks silly."
This, as Buchmann explained, led the team — which is based in Switzerland, but also has partners in Taiwan and California — to explore different ways in which current battery life levels can be challenged. And while this involved looking at modern methods, such as solar power, the team eventually decided to explore modernising the automatic quartz method.
"We looked at different solutions and technologies, but we felt that tapping into the kinetic element brings a nice link between what we like about regular watches and smartwatches," he explains. "In the 1980s, the Swiss industry began developing something called the automatic quartz — Swatch, Omega and the like have put this into millions of watches — but it began to struggle because the prices for these devices came down past its production value.
"We contacted the inventors of this technology and asked them what we could do with the existing micro-generator. In the past, it only had enough power to move hands, so we had to re-engineer the entire micro-generator to bring three to four times more energy so that we can bring some smart functions."
Through this innovation, Sequent's device is able to use the power of your own movement to stay juiced up. And while Buchmann explained that standard movement throughout the day is enough for the device to remain powered, it's also able to harness energy from the likes of running in order to stay alive.
As a result, this helps Sequent to not only appeal to those who want infinite battery, but also those looking for an exercise companion. With activity tracking also backed by a heart rate sensor, in-built GPS and a vibration notification system, (though no sleep tracking) the device, on paper at least, is in line with, or betters, hybrid rivals from the likes of Nokia, Misfit and Fossil Group.
With Sequent already at five times its funding goal of 80,000CHF (which translates to roughly $84,000), it's clearly been a hit with the crowdfunding community. But, as always, your decision to back it is down to whether you believe in the product's ability to deliver its promise - in this case, the draw is obviously the eradication of charging.
Despite this being Sequent's first project, Buchmann insisted that there's a long-term roadmap that includes work on a fitness tracker and potentially even a touchscreen smartwatch. Right now, the priority is, as you might expect, fulfilling the orders of over 1,600 backers (and counting) from the end of this December. He also suggested that delays aren't expected in production.
"Probably our biggest concern at the moment is if any of the big guys want to pressure similar suppliers that we have," says Buchmann. "We know that sometimes these companies like to kill off the smaller players before they grow because it's easier.
"We don't have any signs of that so far, and we have backup plans in place, but of course that could potentially delay things. And this is strictly regarding electronic components; the rest of our supply chain is pretty much in place."
Sequent is promising a lot to its backers. Not only is the company aiming big and offering new methods to eliminate charging, but it also aims to use this ever-presence to tie in with exercise. Once it ships, we'll know whether this is a truly uncompromising hybrid or something which bites off more than it can chew, but for now it's hard to ignore the intrigue.