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Solar Powered Smartwatch Successfully Crowdfunded on Kickstarter (theverge.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Battery life on smartwatches is, in a word, bad. And while most of today's watches can more or less make it through a day without dying, they're still a far cry from the months or even years that traditional watches can run for. What if you never had to charge your smartwatch? That's the promise of Lunar, a new Kickstarter project that claims to be the world's first solar-powered smartwatch... The company says that the watch can charge off both indoor and outdoor light, and can run off as little as one hour of exposure a day. (The company also includes a traditional inductive charger as a backup.)

As for the watch itself, it's a pretty standard hybrid smartwatch, solar power aside. It'll be able to do basic activity and sleep tracking, offer some limited notification support through a colored LED, and automatically set time zones through a connected smartphone app. Also, given the need for low power consumption for the solar charging to feasibly work, there's no screen on the Lunar. Instead, there's just a ring of LED lights located where hour markers would be.

The campaign reached its funding goal wIthin two days of launching -- and one week later had double that amount, raising a total of $101,987 from 564 backers.

It's not clear if Slashdot readers love or hate smartwatches. Does it make a difference if the watch is solar powered?
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Solar Powered Smartwatch Successfully Crowdfunded on Kickstarter

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @01:39PM (#55284169)
    is solar powered? no. next question.
    • Hmm....just watched the kickstarter video, but couldn't make it very far....

      I thought the "man bun" had already had a quick and painful death.

      Apparently not for this watch company. ugh

      • I thought the "man bun" had already had a quick and painful death.

        Unfortunately not - with the start of the new academic year, I see them all the time at UW. of course I'm in reasonably close proximity to the CS department, so nerd chic Is displayed more prominently in this region of the campus.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I have a solar-powered analog watch. It's awesome, I never have to change the battery. And it tells me the time without having to look at my phone!
    • by nickovs ( 115935 )

      Yes, it makes a difference if you are not in the habit of taking your watch off. Old fashioned "dumb" watches have batteries that last years. One of the reasons I've not bought a "smart" watch is that I prefer not to have to take it off for hours at a stretch to charge it up. Many "smart" watches also die before bedtime if you have a particularly long day. It doesn't matter that it's solar per se, but it matters to many people that it charges continuously through ambient sources rather than needing you to t

      • ambient indoor lighting may be enough to power a calculator, but it's only going to make minutes of difference to a watch that would otherwise last only a day.

        They say it takes an hour a day to charge in > 10k lux. Too bad if it's an overcast day. You'd need to spend over 5 hours in the "sun" then. Every day.

        And the notifications for a solar watch are LED's... which would be hard to read in direct sunlight...
        Seems like an LCD semi-smart watch like the Asus Vivo Watch is a better idea. Black & white

    • by q_e_t ( 5104099 )
      It might be very important if you live in Trondheim or have just been sent to a research station in Antarctica.
  • I've been waiting for a smart watch with good battery life and just basic notification support. A little low power LCD would be handy, but this could potentially be a nice addition to a smart phone.

    • This isn't really a smart watch, it's more of a solar-powered basic activity tracker like Fitbit, Garmin, and Jawbone have been making for years. The only difference seems to be they put a physical watchface with physical watch hands on one.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        The other thing I really want from the watch is a proper heart rate monitor. The current ones are wildly inaccurate.

        • by narcc ( 412956 )

          The only ones I've found that work at all, for me at least, require a chest strap.

    • In general we are inflected with a lack of companies.
      We want a device that is as small as possible with a ton of features and last a long time on a battery.
      When ever something is removed to add something out there is rage about it.
      Mobile devices that use to have months of battery life were also about 10 - 20 years behind modern technology on what they can do. We are not closer to 5 years now.
      So what the display can do, processing that needs to be done unwilling to have physical buttons to handle functions.

    • Have a look at Matrix, a watch that is powered by your body heat. It's on indiegogo (which should raise some red flags, but this seems genuinely okay - they gave updates every month or os and are almost ready to ship). They promise you can even swim with it!
      https://www.indiegogo.com/proj... [indiegogo.com]

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @02:01PM (#55284305) Homepage Journal

    [very small print] If you live on Mercury. [/]

  • I don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @02:02PM (#55284311) Journal
    Maybe I'm missing some sort of killer feature; but it looks like their power budget forced them to axe a pretty substantial percentage of the 'smart'; while still tying the watch to a phone(and the hope that it won't lose most of its utility if the company bleeds out and stops updating their little app) and keeping power draw high enough that you do at least sometimes have to worry about the battery, unlike non-smart watches which draw so little power that the solar ones usually run for the life of the device and the battery powered ones have battery lives in years rather than hours.

    I could see the notification LED maybe being useful if you already have your phone's constant demands for attention pared down enough that a simple "$APP$ is bothering you" indicator, without room for displaying 'from', 'subject', or anything of that sort would actually be helpful; but my experience has been that 'social' apps are relentless about their notification spam because user engagement metrics are the stuff of which inflated valuations are built; and email notifications are hard to make helpful without at least knowing you the message is from; or that it has passed a particular set of filter rules; because most mailboxes get a constant torrent of low value chatter.

    I, um, guess it's less silly looking than the rubbery-bracelet style activity trackers? And the advertising photos imply that it will make me a rugged outdoorsman enjoying an active lifestyle and adequate vitamin D? Plus, the advanced 'have your watch tell you if the sun has risen or set' feature!
    • I used to wear a Garmin Vivosmart. It seemingly did everything this device does. It also had a low res OLED display which could display notification text and symbols - which was significantly more useful than this - this is more along the lines of the low-end Jawbone or Fitbit devices of 3-5 years ago.

      My Garmin had 8-10 days battery life.

      The only advantage I can see to this is the physical watch hands are obviously "always on". And perhaps the solar powered bit means you won't have to keep to that brutal on

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Maybe I'm missing some sort of killer feature; but it looks like their power budget forced them to axe a pretty substantial percentage of the 'smart';

      Yeah, pretty much any kind of active communication, interface or sensor will use orders of magnitude more power than running a clock. They say 1 hour/day at >10k lux, well that means [wikipedia.org] an hour of daylight. On an overcast day it's >10 hours. Normal indoor lighting would barely register. I guess this watch is made for people that live in California...

    • Maybe I'm missing some sort of killer feature; but it looks like their power budget forced them to axe a pretty substantial percentage of the 'smart'

      Yup. I don't feel like reproducing my math, but I calculated (given the Apple Watch's battery size and battery life) that in order for a device with that power budget to be solar powered, you'd have to have the entire face of the watch in direct, summer, noontime sunlight for something like 30 hours a day. Even the less astute among us should be able to detect a slight problem with that plan.

      My guess is that the display is probably the most power-hungry component, followed by the processor and radios. It's

  • I have a handful of solar powered watches. The normal kind, that just tell time. They have mechanical faces. They are just awesome, and, like the proposed semi-smart watches (without a display, they aren't smart, sorry), only need a modicum of sunlight, or somewhat more office light, every day to run just fine indefinitely. The only time I've had problems is when I inadvertently left one in a dark closet for a couple of months. Even then, bright sun for a few hours, and all was well again.

    Not having to

    • Not having to replace batteries, ever, is AWESOME, doubly so because watch batteries are really tiny

      I got my last wrist watch 17 years ago. The battery is still going. Most people will replace their dumbwatch long before the battery dies, so I can't see the point to a solar dumbwatch.

  • a) I haven't worn a watch for years.Carrying a phone just makes it totally unnecessary. I'm even afraid that having something on my wrist all day again would just feel wierd now.

    b) Watched the video on their website and am not about to buy anything that is advertised by and therefore associated with fashion-victim hipsters with ridiculous-looking man-buns.

    • You lost me at 'a' but had me back at 'b' -- I love watches, personally, and a phone does not replace them. I'm not strapped with a Rolex, but rather a modest collect of Citizen and Seiko.

      That video, though, contained probably the largest man bun I've ever seen. Good lord...
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      For me, I hate taking out and in my stuff out of my pockets like my iPhone 4S, wallet, etc. With a watch, it is always on my thin wrist to easily see my old school Casio Data Bank DB150's time and other features.

  • Finally I don't have to risk turning to dust when looking out the window to see if the sun has gone down yet.
  • ...need I say more?

  • That's an interesting compromise....do the analog hands auto synchronize to phone's time at least?

  • TFA has photo of the watch with other, presumably, daily-carry items, including a Kodak Instamatic 100 [wikipedia.org] camera from 1963 and cheap LED palm light. Cutting-edge tech all around I see.

  • So will there be an app on the smart watch to tell you when your getting to many harmful rays from the sun while your trying to charge your watch?
  • Tomorrows headline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geoskd ( 321194 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @05:37PM (#55285169)

    Kickstarter funded startup for solar powered watch ends in disaster as startup discovers that watch size solar panels that are covered by sleeves don't produce enough power to run anything.

    Todays best solar panels produce about 15 watts per square foot under ideal conditions (south facing, unshaded direct sunlight). A watch is about 1 square inch (1/144th of a square). So you can start with 1/144th of 15 watts, and under ideal conditions the watch will generate 81 mW. Now you automatically have to divide that in half because you have about 50% nighttime, so the watch has to run on less than 40mW. Now because it still has to work at night, it needs some kind of energy storage, and charging and drawing from that storage will cost you about 15% of your efficiency round trip, so you can take that down to about 35mW. Next, you have to account for more northern climates where your solar load factor is lower because of the amount of atmosphere the light has to pass through, and you have to assume worst case that it will only provide 50% of the rated performance, so now you are down to 17mW. Now, a good microprocessor in sleep mode will draw about 1mA at 3.3V, or about 3.3mW, but during active function will draw around 10mA minimum (33mW). Although Bluetooth Low Energy itself will not use much power for low bandwidth usage, processing that information will require the CPU to be in the active state for a not-insignificant amount of the time. Assume that it will have to spend about 20% of its time actively handling status messages (remember the only way to get a processor that runs on so little power is that it is a 50MHz processor (about the same compute power as a 386 DX). So your average processor power draw should be about 7 mW under normal usage.

    All of that adds up to about a 2x power margin, but all of that has one fundamental assumption that kills the concept in the real world: The solar is only effective when pointed in the general direction of the sun. A watch (even without sleeves) will almost never be directly exposed to sunlight for any significant duration. (Note that light from indoor sources only produces about 1% of the energy as direct natural sunlight. That is why sitting in direct sunlight makes you warm, and indoor lighting doesn't).

    At the end of the day, a dumb watch would probably work just fine for this sort of thing, since a dumb watch only draws uAs. Once you add any kind of external communication protocol, even if it is BLE, you up the power draw to a level that simply can't be powered by energy harvesting of any kind (be it solar or motion, or anything else). I think they have a very nice design for a solar watch that can probably even work for non-smart usage, but if they think they are going to put anything in this thing that can talk to a smartphone, wifi, or any other wireless device, they are dreaming.

  • Meeting their funding goals isn't the hard part, delivering a product is. Let us know if they manage that. http://www.thegamer.com/failur... [thegamer.com]
  • - Notifications
    - Dual Time
    - Sunrise / Sunset

    That's it? I've seen wind up watches with more functionality that that. How about a calendar? Or a timer? Or a stopwatch? Or a heartbeat monitor? Or a pedometer? Or a GPS receiver?

    Connecting to your phone a smartwatch makes not, I'd say.

  • Truly groundbreaking. Anyone interested in buying my Pebble Kickstarter edition? It has several days of battery life, basic but somewhat useful smartwatch functions, and, oh yeah, it's been abandoned by its new IP owner, Fitbit.

  • You can BUY it online from say a TRUSTED source, or, in a store. Nope, not backing kickstarter. If it were "that good" the venture capitalist or banks would back it.
  • To charge a small amount often is good for the battery. Charging from 95% to 100% goes slower because of a lower voltage difference. If the battery is nearly empty, current flows faster and creatures dendrites on the inside of the batteries' terminals. So recharging every time you step outside instead of once per day at night is quite beneficial.
  • Just look at the photos. You can see the hands are real! They are not like any other watch renders that the hands are drawn. Just look at one photo carefully and you will see even shade on hands! What a scam is this really! I can't believe there are so ignorant people to fund such SCAMMY campaigs.

"For the man who has everything... Penicillin." -- F. Borquin