Low-power chips are secret sauce behind long-life wearables

Fancy that – dumb is the new smart


CES 2019 The most eye-catching debuts at CES 2019 are more analogue than digital, and dumber rather than smarter.

Withings has launched its first new products in almost three years, having survived a period of ownership by Nokia. Two Withings Move watches minimise the "smart" but provide continuous fitness tracking, and boast a battery life of 12 and 18 months. The latter, however, includes an ECG (electrocardiogram) sensor the user can activate in the case of atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rate).

Withings Move Blue

Withings Move Blue

The Move has been priced at $70, $130 for the Move ECG – fitness band territory. That's likely to be where the elusive mass market is, too. Most of the Watches Apple sells are the 2017 Watch 3 or older. Less than 20 per cent of Apple's Watch sales were Watch 4 in Q3, IDC said last month (Apple and the retail channel continue to sell both 3 and 4 series).

Geneva-based MyKronoz, which raised $6m in crowdfunding in 2017, also slapped analogue hands onto a low-power chip – which is the secret behind the long-life wearables.

MyKronoz lineup CES 2019

Click to enlarge (source PDF)

MyKronoz takes advantage of Fujitsu's Ambiq embedded micro controllers, which allow the manufacturer to dispense with expensive, power-guzzling SoCs. The Apollo2, for example, draws less than 10 μA/MHz. The two new wearables use the Apollo3 chip, but can nevertheless support voice recognition, and remain in "dumb" mode for 60 days, or "smart" mode for four.

Late last year, Huawei introduced a sub-£200 wearable with battery life of three weeks, adopting a similar philosophy: continuous tracking and notifications, but no bloated apps.

Apollo2 supports the gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer needed for fitness tracking – and the Bluetooth required for communications with a phone (exhaustive tech details in this PDF).

Such a device won't run apps – but the market has been pretty clear it doesn't want apps on the wrist. As we predicted last summer, the losers are the bloated wearable platforms. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022