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Swiss MMT Promises Fully Self-Charging Hybrid Smartwatch Technology Is On The Way

Swiss MMT Promises Fully Self-Charging Hybrid Smartwatch Technology Is On The Way Watch Industry News

Swiss smartwatch module development company MMT has announced new technology that it promises will lead the way toward smartwatches that the wearer never needs to worry about charging. While an actual watch that uses this technology is not part of the announcement, we can take a quick look at the what the company is up to and where the segment is headed. MMT says they are currently working on “the World’s First Energy-Free Hybrid Watch,” but of course, anything needs energy in order to move – so they presumably mean it can exist autonomously from any type of charging cable or dock. The MMT module uses solar panels and an apparently new type of microchip energy harvesting in combination with improved power-conserving components to keep its capacitor and battery topped up.

Swiss MMT Promises Fully Self-Charging Hybrid Smartwatch Technology Is On The Way Watch Industry News

Though a relatively small company, MMT (Manufacture Modules Technologies) has been competing with Silicon Valley and large corporations, developing modules, firmware, apps, and cloud, and helping to keep watches of all kinds as Swiss as possible, it would seem. Recall that MMT worked with the Frederique Constant Group (now under Citizen) for the “Horological Smartwatches” from Frederique Constant and Alpina and later also announced an E-Strap here. Many products that use the term smartwatch, in my opinion, would be better termed “connected” watches, as they don’t offer the full functionality of touchscreens and apps like, say, the Apple Watch or others such as the Samsung Galaxy, or TAG Heuer Connected, to name a couple prominent examples. “Connected” and “hybrid” watches, on the other hand, often try to offer the look and feel of a “traditional” analog watch but with clever ways of, for example, pairing with one’s smartphone, tracking user activity, and displaying notifications. I believe this is the kind of watch we can expect to contain this technology, but maybe it is a step towards better battery life for full-color touchscreen watches as well.

Swiss MMT Promises Fully Self-Charging Hybrid Smartwatch Technology Is On The Way Watch Industry News

How do they do it? Well, it gets kind of nerdy, but some may feel not nerdy enough. MMT refers to a joint study with its tech partners to determine the feasibility of the different types of energy harvesting and its new module’s ability to power the desired smart functions. The study itself is not provided and details are somewhat vague, but it cites the types of energy harvested as radio frequency (RF), which refers to electromagnetic radiation converted into energy, as well as a thermoelectronic generator (TEG) which converts heat into energy. Solar power is something we are all more familiar with that converts light into energy, and the takeaway message here is that solar panel technology continues to improve in its efficiency. According to the study, with “as little as 1 hour per day, or 3 to 4 hours on the weekend of direct light, the watch is able to combine a wide range of functionalities, such as step-counting, sleep tracking, notifications, and auto-time updates, without ever requiring charging by the user.”

Swiss MMT Promises Fully Self-Charging Hybrid Smartwatch Technology Is On The Way Watch Industry News

The next piece that contributes to this smartwatch module’s “energy independence” is new developments in microchip (IC, or integrated circuit) energy harvesting. Here, again, details are vague (as if we laymen could really appreciate them anyway), but we are told that efficiency has been boosted to “an unprecedented 92%” from “a mere 40mV.” So, there are various ways in which MMT is furthering how energy is collected, but of course, the other factor is an overall design that will use less energy. An “artificial intelligence algorithm,” we are told, helps conserve power usage, presumably by knowing when to pause certain functions, for example. There are, of course, many other ways of conserving energy and increasing efficiency throughout a movement and watch, some of which may even overlap with that of mechanical watches such as reducing weight and friction. These are surely part of the bigger picture as well.

Swiss MMT Promises Fully Self-Charging Hybrid Smartwatch Technology Is On The Way Watch Industry News

The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture Watch movement.

The MMT announcement refers specifically to hybrid watches – and I might add that Frederique Constant is currently making what I consider some of the best-looking watches in the smart/connected category with the pretty darn interesting Hybrid Manufacture watch (hands-on here). This means a traditional mechanical movement with an electronic module integrated into it to offer connected functionality, and you can learn more about it in the linked-to article. Design and wearability are of course an important part of getting smartwatches on mainstream consumers’ wrists, but battery life is probably the biggest challenge and the name of the current competitive smartwatch game. Recent announcements such as the Samsung Galaxy watch and the Casio Protrek Smart WSD-F30, for example, were largely focused on improved battery life. MMT makes modules for other watch companies rather than its own products, so Frederique Constant and Alpina seem like candidates to employ this technology in their future watches. mmt.ch

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  • SuperStrapper

    I’m not sure how much money has been put into this or how it will actually translate to use, but I do believe that if Casio hasn’t figured it out yet then there is still a lot more work to do than what is being described here to realise this in a functional watch. I’m not suggesting they are the end-all-be-all but no one else has the depth of experience and success in solar capability that they do, and I don’t believe they’ve been resting on their laurels with what they already have. I fully believe they are pushing to get adequate solar charging into a fully functional smart watch and if I had to place a bet one who would get there first properly, it would be the Japanese Giant.
    But I have no bets placed nor do I have any favouritism in flight, I’d be quite happy to see the Swiss get there first.

    • Han Cnx

      Well, Citizen knows a thing or two about solar I think.

      Anyway, some of these Japanese companies can be pretty conservative when it comes to new technologies. All of them (Casio, Seiko and Citizen) haven’t really done much to date to bring actual smart watch functionality to their watches.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Is this the future?

    ” Don’t be afraid of what you want. This is your time. The barriers are down “.

    Morgan Freeman.

  • Norbs K

    I can see solar and kinetic being easy to combine in a watch and produce enough juice to power a relatively simple hybrid watch. But there is always a catch. It will be smart (smarter then a quartz), but probably not as smart as top tier watches. Maybe on the same level as the Pebble watch was with some features left out.
    Also it is funny how they say, that the wearer doesn’t need to worry about charging. Yeah you don’t have to worry about putting it on the charger, but you have to worry to wear it frequently to “charge” it.

    Just put in a micro-fission reactor in it and let that sucker run for years. You could even have a display with it.
    Make sure you won’t take the movement out of the shielded casing and you’ll be fine.

  • Joe

    All of these technologies in combination sound good.

    However I wonder whether the addition of a crown to wind a main-spring is too “stone age” for any of these companies to consider?
    On a cloudy day when I’m not generating enough kinetic energy, I wouldn’t mind resorting to pulling the crown out and winding it 😛

    Lastly, I know that YMMV but out of “step-counting, sleep tracking, notifications, and auto-time updates”, perhaps auto-time updates would be most useful (especially for travellers). The rest I could probably do without. I guess I’m not really the target-market for a smartwatch.

    If the criteria is to mix “mechanical foundation” together with high-tech then watches that come close to this might be something with Spring Drive or possibly even the Ressence e-Crown (which I don’t like).

    My favourite (if it ever materialises) would be the combination of a GS Spring Drive “connected” to a smart phone to offer phone-driven world-time functionality.
    Next best would be a 3-hander Spring Drive with an independent hour hand (ie without a GMT hand) 😛

    • Ulysses31

      It sounds like you’re describing a Seiko Kinetic Direct Drive mechanism, which allows for power generation by winding the crown. It’s a good idea.

  • a watch with self charging capabilities how cool is that but can only comment when the actual product is unveiled..

  • by the way great article..

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