Hackable Smart Watch Is Also Open Source

When they first came to market, many detractors thought that smart watches would be a flop or that there wouldn’t be much use for them. Over the past few years, though, their sales continue to increase as people find more and more niche uses for them that weren’t previously considered. The one downside to most of these watches is unsurprisingly their lack of openness and hackability, but with some willpower and small circuit components there are a few options available for those of us who like to truly own our technology.

This smartwatch is the SMA Q3, the next version of this smartwatch that we saw at the beginning of last year. Like its predecessor, it boasts a sunlight-readible display powered by a Bluetooth SoC, but this time uses the upgraded nRF52840. All of the standard smartwatch features are available, but this version also includes SWD pins on the back, and additionally has support for Bangle.js and can run some of the apps from the app loader. Some details still need to be worked out for this specific hardware, but there are some workarounds available for the known problems.

The project is also on Kickstarter right now but is well past its funding goals. We’re excited to see adoption of an open-source smartwatch like this, and to that end all of the hardware details and software are freely available on the project’s page, provided you can order some of the needed parts from overseas. If you’re looking for something a little more BASIC, though, we have you covered there as well.

16 thoughts on “Hackable Smart Watch Is Also Open Source

  1. I really wish they would start integrating an amorphous solar cell into smartwatches and ditch the radio, so that you don’t have to charge them. Putting in a radio not only eats power (if you use it) but it makes it a security risk (even if you don’t use it), open source or not.

    Maybe I’m just old and paranoid but I’ve seen way too many devices be completely vulnerable to basic attacks.

    1. You mean no bluetooth? Without that what’s the point?

      It seems like most people want them for step tracking. And then they want it to sync with their phone so they can see how many steps they took in a pretty display and share it with all their FB friends. They wouldn’t be happy if they had to copy the step count manually every night.

      I don’t care about that stuff and I quit wearing a watch to tell the time 20 years ago.

      I want my watch primarily to serve four purposes.

      It makes my phone ring when I misplace it. I’m sorry to say that I do use that feature a lot.

      It’s a convenient remote control for the music app on my phone. That is especially useful in the winter when my phone is in a pocket that is a few layers of clothing deep and I am shoveling or skiing.

      It displays notifications from my phone that I can glance at without picking the phone up, good when my hands are full, the phone is in a layers-deep pocket like above or when I want to just glance at my wrist discreetly without everyone in the room knowing that I just checked my messages.

      How would any of this happen without a radio? Typical network admin thinking. Make it so safe it’s no longer fit for purpose.

      1. A smart watch is smart because if has brains. It could probably use the screen (transmitter) and the solar panel (Receiver) as form of very close range optical communication for data transfer. Like, face-plate to face-plate close, or attached to an optical dock. That way, it’s waterproof and allows for programmability. Could serve like a compass, speedometer, altimeter, counter, calculator, ID Tag, or whatever useful thing you can think of it doing by you just tapping the screen for input, on top of just telling the time and date.

        1. If it’s got an interface like that, it’s still insecure. It’s not the radio that makes it insecure, it’s the bad coding. If you forget to check your input size, you can do a buffer overrun with a stack of punch cards as easily as a radio.

    2. I’ve great news for you – someone does make those! Check out anything Casio made back in the 80s – no radio, and battery lasts forever (like seriously… I’ve one that’s lasted over 10 years. That’s longer than any solar device because the rechargeable batteries don’t last that long).

    3. If you take out the communications link with the rest of the world, it’s no longer a smartwatch.

      If a long-running dumb watch is what you’re after, you’ve had tons of options going back decades. You can get a Citizen Eco-drive that runs entirely off solar. Mine has been chugging along for over 15 years with no battery changes. Or Seiko’s kinetic quartz series, or just go back to automatic mechanical watches. Or buy one of many primary battery watches that’ll run for 10 years if you don’t use backlight or alarms often, and assume that you’ll properly recycle and replace the coin cell when it’s dead.

  2. Beware buying a “SMA Q3” sample via Alibaba – they sent the wrong product, but it’s still listed. Approx. 42 Euros for nothing.. I hope they will refund or I’ll have to hope for Alibaba to step in.

    1. I think the refund went through automatically (dispute escalated manually after seller accepted return intend), as the latest message from “Shenzhen Smart Care Technology” started with the F-word and ended with “off”.

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