In the 1950s, artwork of what the future would look like included flying cars and streamlined buildings reaching for the sky. In the 60s we were heading for the Moon. When digital watches came along in the 70s, it seemed like a natural step away from rotating mechanical hands to space age, electrically written digits in futuristic script.
But little did we know that digital watches had existed before and that our interest in digital watches would fade only to be reborn in the age of smartphones.
Mechanical Digital Watches
In 1883, Austrian inventor Josef Pallweber patented his idea for a jumping hour mechanism. At precisely the change of the hour, a dial containing the digits from 1 to 12 rapidly rotates to display the next hour. It does so suddenly and without any bounce, hence the term “jump hour”. He licensed the mechanism to a number of watchmakers who used it in their pocket watches. In the 1920s it appeared in wristwatches as well. The minute was indicated either by a regular minute hand or a dial with digits on it visible through a window as shown here in a wristwatch by Swiss watchmaker, Cortébert.
The jump hour became popular worldwide but was manufactured only for a short period of time due to the complexity of its production. It’s still manufactured today but for very expensive watches, sometimes with a limited edition run.
The modern digital watch, however, started from an unlikely source, the classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Despite owning five, including the original Pebble, I’ve always been somewhat skeptical about smart watches. Even so, the leaked news that Fitbit is buying Pebble for “a small amount” has me sort of depressed about the state of the wearables market. Because Pebble could have been a contender, although perhaps not for the reason you might guess.
Pebble is a pioneer of the wearables market, and launched its first smartwatch back in 2012, two years before the Apple Watch was announced. But after turning down an offer of $740 million by Citizen back in 2015, and despite cash injections from financing rounds and a recent $12.8 million Kickstarter, the company has struggled financially.
An offer of just $70 million earlier this year by Intel reflected Pebble’s reduced prospects, and the rumoured $30 to $40 million price being paid by Fitbit must be a disappointing outcome for a company that was riding high such a short time ago.
[TVMiller]’s description of his project is epic enough to deserve a literal copy-paste (something our readers often praise us about). In his own words, “Having discovered several spare Midichlorians in my liquor cabinet, I trained and applied them to opening a large cumbersome gate. The FORCE motion travels through my inner what-nots and is translated by the Pebble Classic accelerometer toggling a command sent to the (Particle) Cloud (City) which returns to the Particle Photon triggering a TIP120 to fire a button on an existing RF transceiver. May the ridiculous hand gestures be with you, always.” Thus was born the Gate Jedi , and you’ll need exactly 47 Midichlorians, and some other trivial parts, to build one.
The Pebble watch hooks up to his android smart phone. A Pebble (android) app sends the accelerometer data to the Particle (previously called Spark) cloud service. From there, the data is pushed to the Photon IoT board which runs a few lines of code. Output from the Photon turns on a TIP120 power transistor, which in turn triggers the existing RF trans receiver that opens the Gate.
A Pebble smart watch, and a Raspberry Pi. They are a perfect match. This is probably what [Daniel] thought when he embarked upon his latest project, a smart doorbell called the PebblyPi (tip submitted by [Ben]).
The actual project is quite easy to implement. All you need really need is a Raspberry Pi, a switch, a resistor, and a Pebble Smart Watch (plus a smart phone). Using a simple Python script on the Raspberry Pi, button press notifications are sent to Pushover, which allows the notification to arrive on your smart phone (and thus your Pebble Smart Watch). Pushover is a very cool notification service for Android devices, iPhones, iPads, and your Desktop. The concept behind this project is great, and the fact that it is so simple to implement opens up many other possibilities for interfacing your home electronics with the Pebble Smart Watch (or even just your smart phone). The ability to create custom notifications on any of your devices using any internet connected system is amazing!
So far the two bits of hardware used in his experiments are shown in the image above. The watch itself serves as the controller, interacting with the Ethernet relay board seen in the background. The watch communicates via Bluetooth but you don’t have to know much about that thanks to the example files available from the repository. With communications taken care of he needed a menu system to access commands on the watch. Instead of coding his own he hacked a playlist into the built-in music menu. This allows him to switch the relays on and off again as if he were playing or pausing audio tracks. See it in action after the break.