2016 Modular Fashion

Introduction 

Quite recently, nobody even thought of such object type as smart modular electronics. However, the progress cannot be stopped; therefore pretty soon our life will be extended by various electronic modular devices represented by a new subtype of mobile electronics: starting from modular smartphones and tablets and ending in modular watches, smart bracelets, “thinking” pant belts, and other accessories of our everyday life.

It is worth noting that not only young companies entered this market with their startup projects of modular smartphones, tablet computers, and smart modular watches but also mature corporations true global giants of the consumer industry entered this prospective modular electronics market. The following modular electronics projects deserve special emphasis in this motley crew:

 

 

 

 

Modular Smart Phones

Puzzlephone: The Finns. Finnish development engineers from Circular Devices have a deep dig at the future modular smartphones users. These guys not only have managed to create the prototype of the modular smartphone consisting of three components according to the creators’ gradation: brain, heart and skeleton. According to the development engineers’ concept, the brain is a processor; the heart - is a power supply and battery; and the skeleton — is a combination of the device’s frame and display.

Phonebloks: The Dutchmen. This project is a kind of electronic Lego transformer – smar phone made of electronic devices – modules – easily replaceable by its owner in case of damage, upgrade or for some other reasons. This idea belongs to Dave Hakkens – a Dutch designer. This concept inspires manufacturers of electronic smart phone fillers because they see at this project a serious potential for an extra customization of the already produced component electronic base with the minimum business expenses.

Magic Cube: The Chinese. The project from the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi Company with the code name Magic Cube, announced in the Internet and mass media, according to the idea of its authors, has minimum block design, namely: framework, processor unit, battery and photo/video camera. All the Magic Cube modules are supposed to be made in different colors. However, nothing more is known of this phantom project because no other information has leaked into the press until now.

ZTE Eco-Mobius: Another Chinese company, desiring to keep abreast of the modular smartphone industry in the future, has announced their modular smartphone which, apart from the slide frame, includes a display, processor core with the built-in camera module on magnet clips, and built-in power supply represented by the battery. Properly speaking, that’s all about it. Except for the fact that this exhibit was presented to the concerned public at CES 2014, albeit under the glass. 

Fonkraft: The Austrians. Among the latest modular world innovations in 2015 the room of the Austrian modular smartphone development engineers with their Fonkraft project. Its manufacture fund-raising process was not long ago started on Indiegogo crowd-funding site. This development has already become a multi-modular one, including the “chassis” or smart phone skeleton onto which inter-compatible modular units containing a display, a processor, a RAM, a data storage device etc. are mounted. However, a bit later for some unknown reasons this project has been removed from Indiegogo…  

Nexpaq: a Hong Kong company. An international team of development engineers from Hong Kong, which rose over $ 50k in Quarter 1, 2015 for their project on Kickstarter, may pretend to the nomination of smartphone accessory turning it into a modular smartphone. This device is easily adaptable to any mobile platform, operating with its modules placed into a special strap-on frame by analogy with an extra battery with the control via a USB port to the smartphone through the user’s software. A year ago, Intersoft Eurasia JSC signed an NDA with Nexpaq, and after that all the activities had been suspended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modular Watches

Modularity trends in electronics are observed not only in its front-line industry – smartphone construction, but also in the segment close to it – the so-called smart watches which were introduced to the world some time ago by the monoblocks from the leading portable electronics vendors, now began to be converted into the various modular designs with a substantially wider functionality than a mere chronograph or even a telephone with a photo-camera.

Well, the first smart time device was a wall clock with a cuckoo, popping out of the house strictly on time, but now they are not a question!

Blocks: The Englishmen. So, it would be reasonable to believe that smart watch with their own processor, display and battery will attract other modules onto the wristband with the vacant place for something else! That’s how it was with the Blocks watch in which every wrist band segment contains a complete electronic unit for the particular purposes of its owner and, actually, if required, it is duplicated a wrist smartphone as a flexible uniformed band expanded by various functions for fitness and health diagnostics.

As it should have been expected, segments of the smart modular watches are a lot scarcer than their pioneers – modular smartphones, but still the world of gadgets does not stand still but moves along with the history of the scientific and technical progress. May be it is for this reason that we are going to see new original fantasies of the portable electronics development contractors in the future.

 

Unrivalled Giants

ARA Project: The Americans. Certainly, Google Company could not ignore the fast-growing sector of the world modular electronics by starting its own project – ARA – a modular Android smartphone on its own endoframe. Besides, Google made this act in a beautiful and elegant manner, claiming that every tellurian must have his/her own modular smartphone. Simultaneously, all the world developers wishing to participate in the project were provided with publicly accessible documents on the Google ARA Project, granting comprehensive assistance in the fastest development of the modules for ARA project. 

DO-RA.Module: The Russians. Intersoft Eurasia JSC (http://intersofteurasia.ru), Skolkovo Technological Park resident has also made their contribution to the modular trend of the mobile electronics by participating in the module development engineers’ competition with the prize fund of $100 k and having designed their own DO-RA Module for ARA Project (for the continuous environment monitoring by the redundant ionizing radiation). Hereby, the future ARA modular smart phone owner will be able to constantly monitor the radiation background around him/her including the following options:

  • Measure ionizing gamma- and beta-radiation in the modular smartphone owner’s location, as well as to identify hazard sources, represented by the fissionable isotopes in the foodstuff and drinks.
  • Control the risks from the redundant ionizing radiation effects on all the human body organs and systems, saving information about the events at the user’s private account.
  • Record (as geographic coordinates), take photos and register the sources of the redundant ionizing radiation on location and in 3D space.
  • Inform its owner with a sound, vibration or voice signals about the identified ionizing radiation hazard source with the advice on this event.
  • Post information of the redundant ionizing radiation in the mass people conglomeration locations on Google Maps as colored warning areas classified by the hazard extent. 

Visual Solution. Probably, the first people to take up the modular trend will be brutal bearded men – lumberjack style, for which deliberately bright color styles are combined with the individual independence and freedom of the choice of any option set in the electronic devices and with the capability of fast change of the modular accessories’ set! Thus, their check shirts will match with the block elements of the modular smartphone, modular watch emphasizing refined taste of their owner and personal individuality…

*Hereby a bearded man wearing a granddad-collar shirt having a modular ARA smartphone in own hand and wearing a modular ARA-module-based watchband on the other one, with the pants on the modular band with the navigation system in a customized buckle ideally fits this modular fashion...

 

Modularity in Everyday Life

  • Transformer Glasses 

Smart glasses similar to Google Glasses or HoloLens from Microsoft will be able to expand our world image by extending the real life with virtual world. Hereby they will help us not to get lost in a new city, watch the driver’s concentration during long-range tiresome trips or help low-skill workers to perform more complicated works, than the person with limited capabilities, experience and skills is able to perform!

  • Modular Smart Wrist Band  

Bearing in mind the fact that any of the modular smart phones being developed
now may encompass only some extra modules valid for one occasion and Google Company announced the launch more than 30 modules to their ARA pilot project, one will have to do something with the vacant modules?! Therefore, redundant (currently not involved in a specific modular smartphone) modules’ “utilization” industry is emerging next to the modular smart phone industry. And considering the fact that most of the currently developed modules are different sensors (temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure), radiation and other electromagnetic field detectors smart wrist band may take up some functions of the mobile meteorological station or be responsible for health monitoring as an electronic Dr. Doolittle.

  • Modular Pant Belt 

The next stage in the development of the electronic modular devices development
and, obviously, fashion will become such a routine item as our everyday-wear pant belt with the modular belt navigation system in the buckle customized to this belt. The belt length, on average 70–80 cm will be sufficient for locating 30 to 40 standard ARA Project modules! Looks like an embodiment of the famous phrase by the Greek philosopher Bias of Priene “All my belongings are on myself” with the modern shade, doesn’t it! All we have to do is to watch where this promising trend in the modular electronics is going to bring us in the coming few years!

 

 

 

 

 

  • Button Line 

Despite the fact that the electronic modules are just breaking through into the new domestic electronics industry becoming more and more compact and more power-effective, the next technology of the device miniaturization stage is snapping on its heels due to the use of nano-technologies of about 8 nm when the manufacture of the chips is becoming smaller in terms of not only linear dimensions but also low power consumption! The modern chip technologies now enable locating virtually any electronic device, like sound amplifier with a microphone, into a simple shirt button! So the new spy technology is at the back of the pack of modular electronics still not well stabilized.

 

  • Fiber Line 

But there is more to come. It is not in vain that the present-day technologies abide by the Moore law increasing their power and, consequently, miniaturization every 18–24 months! There are already chips thinner than a human hair and therefore they are capable of being entwined into normal fabrics and exist there for the entire life cycle of the clothes. So, the gadgets of the future may pass over from the modular grade to the fabric structures in the shirts, suits, jeans and other woven or knitted items from our everyday life. Moreover, the heat of our bodies converted into their supply electricity is enough to energize this size chips.

 

  • Film Line 

Quite near there is the microchip film line, when special-purpose 3D printers now are able to reproduce electrical circuits including various detectors of electromagnetic, sound, heat and other waves as dedicated film coatings, for example, by placing them into ladies’ nails during manicure. Hereby, it will be possible to change the quality and functions of these film gadgets. We can only guess where these technologies will bring the present-day world if they are used for our routine life!

 

Conclusions:

  • Modular fashion in the mobile electronics is aimed at the expansion of the range of the most wanted functions of the electronic devices and different gadgets for domestic purposes, environment protection, and human health care will more and more actively enter our life. 
  • Based on the most popular modules in the future such components will be able to take their place in conventional standard smartphones on structural circuitry level of the already developed modular solutions. Thus, in their time digital cameras, flashes and other components were integrated into absolutely all the smartphones and tablets.  
  • The whole industry of the devices, so-called module integrators, will emerge around the electronic modularity. When the modules of different purposes and design will be able to work with the smartphones creating new unusual and useful capabilities for them. 
  • Modular technology is just an episode in the development of the modern technologies on the way of their nano-integation into more intelligent devices like communicators and smartphones … 

 

Vladimir Elin, Ph.D. (Eng.)
DO-RA Project Manager,
Intersoft Eurasia JSC,
July 1, 2015