Hackaday Prize Entry: New Firmware For A Smartwatch

Smartwatches are the next big thing. Nobody knows what we’re going to use them for, but that’s never stopped a product from being the hottest item around. The WeLoop Tommy isn’t the Apple Watch, it isn’t the Moto360, and it isn’t the Microsoft Band. It is, however, a nice smartwatch with a Sharp memory display and a battery that lasts longer than a few days. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Krzysiek] is making an open source firmware for the WeLoop Tommy that will add capabilities no other smartwatch has.

This project is a complete reverse engineering of the WeLoop Tommy smartwatch. [Krzysiek] is tearing everything down to the bare components and figuring out how the RAM, Flash, buttons, LCD, and accelerometer connect to the processor. After that, it’s time for custom firmware.

Already [Krzysiek] has a test app that displays [OSSW] on the Sharp memory display. It’s not much, but the hardware is solid. With the right firmware, the WeLoop Tommy will be able to do just about everything an Android, Apple, or Microsoft smartwatche can do using repurposed hardware and open source firmware.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

25 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: New Firmware For A Smartwatch

  1. This is a fine project, I have no problem with it.

    I’ve never seen a compelling need for a smart watch. I understand how some people like to wear watches (I don’t), and I understand how some watches have lots of functions like calculators or alarms that people sometimes use.

    I wear a watch rarely (once a year?), when I need an alarm clock away from home. I know how to set the alarm on my watch, but I just don’t see many other people using this feature – it’s too hard and complicated to use that feature (or the stopwatch).

    Most people have a cell phone, and there’s clocks just about everywhere. There’s a clock in my vehicle, one in my living room, and one on my computer. There’s always a clock within sight.

    The “I can check my E-mail without seeming rude in a meeting” is not a compelling use.

    Anything it could display could more easily be displayed on my cell phone.

    Maybe if it could do health monitoring (sleep apnea through heart rate and blood oxygenation? tossing and turning at night? long-term temperature or heart rate trends?) it would be worth the trouble.

    More than a couple of days? My regular watch (the one with the alarm) goes for *two years* before I have to replace the battery.

    What’s the compelling use case for a smart watch?

    1. THIS. It is a fad indeed. Even apple couldn’t put enough lipstick on it. That said, I am sure there are some practical uses that don’t involve everyday life, where it seems that a phone dongle for your wrist would be handy. Perhaps a live mountain climbing twitter (barf) feed or some other non sequitur.

    2. For me, I wear Bluetooth headphones when I’m out, to listen to music. When people call me, I just press a button on them to answer.

      I have an app that’s supposed to announce who’s calling, which only seems to work when I’m NOT using Bluetooth. So I bought a Gen 1 Sony Smartwatch, it announces the caller on screen. That’s handy. Also lets me check texts without taking the phone out of my pocket. It’s handy.

      Sadly it’s an old model, and the LiPo battery’s now dead. It appears soldered in, I don’t know if I feel up to cracking it open and replacing it. Still not like it could work any less.

      So that’s one use. I also have a complete watch-phone. That’s not as useful as you’d think, not easy to use, and it’s on a separate phone number. Plays MP3s and tiny videos though so that’s cool. Had handwriting recognition, and is pretty good for what it is, it’s just not a practical thing. Plus it has a separate phone number, people mostly call my phone. And it’s 2G only, my main network is 3G / 4G only.

      Any suggestions on a good free caller-announcing over Bluetooth app would be appreciated.

    3. It’s just handy. If I get an email or text, it pops up on my phone, what’s not to love? Furthermore, it’s got a lot of actually fairly advanced functionality with a bit of tinkering. If my watch is connected to my phone, the password screen doesn’t come up. If I loose my phone, I can ping it from my watch easily. I have a timer, simple text responses, and easy-to-access music controls all on my wrist. I’ve had my pebble for about two years now and I’ve really fallen in love with it.

    4. “What’s the compelling use case for a smart watch?”

      I want one as a remote control to my phone.

      My favorite example..

      I really wanted one last winter as I was shoveling my driveway.
      It’s a wide driveway and a long sidewalk so shoveling can take the better part of a day. We have renters so there are too many cars to work around to bother with a blower. Anyway.. I like to listen to podcasts while doing mindless chores like that. Being able to pause, and rewind from my wrist would be great!. Especially since my phone was underneath snowpants! I’ve found things sometimes fall out of the snowpants pockets.

      Sure.. that example only comes around about 5 times or so per year. But those are 5 times that it would really make me happier! Still though, I can see using it at other times when my phone is not under snowpants.

      How about displaying caller id and letting me answer the phone? No, I don’t want to talk to it like Dick Tracy. I would use it with my bluetooth headset. Sure, I can answer now with the button on my earpiece but that doesn’t tell me who is calling and it is more awkward since an earpeace isn’t strapped on like a watch.

      Would I use it for other stuff? I don’t know but before I had a smartphone I had one of those Timex Data Watches. I used to use that a lot.

    5. I own a Pebble, and it’s great!

      It’s started this weird habit for me, though. When I get a text message, or an e-mail, I can feel my phone vibrating in my pocket. My first instinct these days is to look at my wrist.

      Seconds later, the message/email shows up there, and I can decide at-a-glance whether or not it’s worth getting my phone out and unlocking it to respond, or if I should just dismiss it from the watch.

      Also, lately, I’ve been using the JavaPay app to buy drinks at Starbucks. Again, it saves having to pull out my phone, unlock it, open the Starbucks app, tap “Pay Now”, and hold the phone in front of the scanner. Now I just press the “up” button on my watch, and scan it. Done.

      Really, what sold me on smartwatches is the ability to customize watch faces to something unique and easy-to-read. Being able to code my own is also a plus.

      For me, the deciding factor on which smartwatch to get came down to battery life. I don’t want to charge it daily. I want to charge it weekly, or less. The Pebble fits this requirement well, and it sounds like the WeLoop watch does too.

      Based on the photo, for a moment I thought they were porting the Pebble firmware to the WeLoop, which would be cool, because there’s a lot to like about the Pebble.

    6. My phone does duty as a bike computer. I like to listen to music on a paved trail ride. The dangers of the road aren’t there so headphones work (but learning about bone conduction from a recent HaD project has me very interested in that). The phone will have all my important data up on the screen: current speed, cadence, heart rate, ride time, distance, etc. I can’t get to controls on the phone screen. Sweat and touch screens don’t mix well either.
      But a Pebble with physical buttons lets me control my music frustration free, lets me keep my eyes on the trail, and always have a hand on the brakes just in case.
      Out in public, I can keep my phone safely in my pocket. No one can snatch it out of my hands if it isn’t there.
      they let you be polite about notifications. I have distinct vibrations for my various notifications which are a first order filter. The Pebble works as a second order filter. when coordinating a group, I can be part of the group I’m with while seeing if other members of the group are trying to get a hold of me. I can do this without taking my attention away from the people I am with.

      I would like to learn enough to provide haptic navigation cues on a smartwatch. I don’t like looking like a tourist with my face in my phone when I’m walking to someplace I haven’t been to before, especially at night in a less than perfect part of town.

      There are good reasons to keep your phone put away in your pocket or otherwise out of reach but still need access to information. We have adjusted to constantly have our phones in our hands, smart watches help allow us to keep them in our pockets more frequently.

  2. My preference for a watch was always a plain Timex that simply told the time with hands. The last one I bought (over 10 years ago) had a battery that lasted more than 10 years. I had to settle for one with the Indiglo backlight, like the previous Timex it replaced, because Timex just didn’t make a watch without it. The older one still worked when replaced but something broke in the backlight switch. If the knob was pulled out to set then pushed in it would light. But if the knob was turned it made a *tick* sound and the light wouldn’t work. The plating peeled on the case and knob, making sharp edges. So much for “It takes a licking”.

    Then in 2004 I got a Handspring visor and not long after that a cheap flip phone and shortly after quit wearing a watch. I don’t miss the sweating and skin irritation and resultant smelly watch band.

    1. I’m a full-grown adult, and I still haven’t got the hang of reading time from hands. I can do it, but it takes a bit of effort. Watches with hands are for the 17th Century.

  3. For a start, two of my vehicles don’t have clocks. Pulling a cell phone out at a stoplight on a motorcycle is difficult (gloves, zippers etc). Pulling up a jacket sleeve is not.

    A watch is a lot more comfortable than one of those horrible arm bands for smart phones. Allows me to see my pace, distance and elapsed time easily. Same for cycling…and swimming.

    Checking email, texts, tweets etc surreptitiously may not be a compelling reason for you but it is for many. Ask is the convenience of seeing these without having to remove the phone from your pocket. Again, this is not always easy due to apparel issues…such as in cold weather.

    A watch is likely to be on my wrist most of the time. My Phone is likely on the counter or desk plugged into a charger. That’s fine if I’m near the desk or counter…but that’s not always where I am.

    Lastly and most likely – its new tech stuff – that’s a compelling need all its own.

  4. When I look at a watch I want to see the TIME. This is the MOST IMPORTANT thing. It’s a watch after all. If it can’t do that, it’s a fail.

    If you have to push buttons, spin shit, do do anything other than look, it’s a fail.

    Pebble time = Awesome.
    LG Watch R = Total crap. 80% of the time, all you see is “settings”. Stupid watch. Since I got the pebble, I haven’t used the LG. I think its going to end up being expensive round display to use in another project ;-)

    Tommy looks cool. As long as I can see the time when I look. If I don’t, it’s a fail.

    1. That’s one of the best parts of the pebble IMO, is it’s a proper, functioning watch. No tapping, no wrist wriggling, just look at it and you see the time. It’s a watch first and smartwatch second.

  5. Great project. I would love a (somewhat) normal looking watch I can use as both a BLE sensor interface and everyday wear. It’s hard to find a sport watch to track mileage/pace/heart rate/etc that doesn’t want everyone to know, “HEY I’M A SPORT WATCH!”

    As for other uses for a smartwatch, I’m with [Brian Benchoff]. Who knows what else they’ll be used for. I’m no phone/internet junkie, but I imagine there’s some pretty cool stuff on the horizon.

      1. Many years ago, I used a device intended to test your reading speed. It basically presented the word you were reading for a certain time, then substituted it for the next one. The rate of change was adjustable. Something like that could possibly work, if you only have space for one word at a time.

  6. I have pebble watch and I love this thing. Main use is obviously time. You can see it in any light any time. Second most common use for me is as a speedometer for my motorcycle. I do not have a gauge cluster and I use my phones GPS with Pebble bike and it’s awesome…
    I’d like to make my own speedo thou

  7. I wouldn’t mind a good watch. The only good reason I’d want it would be to tag my GPS coords and use it as a RFID/NFC, BlueTooth or WiFi ping/pairing/join detector.

    Basically the watch notifies you and your phone. Once tripped it can only unlock with port-knock. It kicks on a firewall/drops all traffic and starts to spam/mumble of random malformed RFID/NFC codes’s, BlueTooth MAC’s and WiFi Networks along with addresses. With a few honeypot nodes, just to waste their time.

    Instead of a standard watch face, have a blue sleeping/snoring animal/cloud icon. First events or a area that was previously recorded as an alert zone (your “clippy” wakes up and is in Green mode. Doing that looking left to right.- yellow level the cat/dog or cloud wakes up. Cat starts flicking tail, Dog gets in to that growl posture, Cloud starts gives off occasional internal flashes while hovering. At Red Active – “F deez folk” , Cat is doing that hissing animation, Dog is Barking like crazy, Cloud is throwing bolts in random directions.

    Fine, let’s hit the pun over the head and call, lets name the watch software “watch-dawg”.

    Once it goes Red, it records the GPS cords and time. And yes it can share location of when and where it was tripped with other members. Also will notify you of any new CDMA or GSM tower ID’s that are not associated with the area you are in.

    I wanted to push the idea of having a dating site link your profile likes and use the software to nudge/light up your wristband/watch if there was someone around that was interested in you but I figured there are enough a-holes out there to make fake profiles and even swap wristbands so that we don’t need another crappy piece of tech.

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