Meet the one-man startup looking to make a splash
Hybrid smartwatches are growing. Fossil Group continues to launch a mountain of wrist-wear from designer brands, Nokia is in the process of relaunching its hybrid collection and Garmin is bringing a hidden screen to the market with the Vivomove HR.
We’ve even seen Swiss startup MyKronoz innovate with its mechanical hands-packing hybrid and raise millions of dollars through crowdfunding in the process. But while plenty of options are out there for hybrid fans to choose from, the amount of truly budget devices is limited.
Enter, TCK Movement — a hybrid smartwatch not from a major wearable maker, or even a small team. Instead, it’s the work of just one person, Rhys Birkinshaw, a computer science student at Durham University looking to bring a brilliant budget to the market. After some time developing his idea, the 19-year-old’s design is now doing the rounds on Kickstarter, available from £59 (around $77), hunting down a funding goal of £20,000.
“I suppose it all started around two years ago,” Birkinshaw told us. “I was discussing with a friend what we expected to become popular in the future and with the declining price of technology and the ability to manufacture smaller and smaller devices, it made sense to me that every watch on the market would have smart tech. Two years later, I’ve seen some upmarket options, but none that look that good below the $100 mark.
“I got to the point where I realised nobody had done this yet. I sat there and said to myself, ‘I’m a computer science student, I took electronics in school, I’m okay at CAD (Computer Aided Design), I’m okay at circuit design and I’m going to take the opportunity and dive in’. So this time last year I said to my flatmates that I was gonna make a watch – they kind of rolled their eyes – and I went through a lot iterations and came back from that summer break with a working design.”
That design is a minimalistic-looking hybrid smartwatch packed with the standard features — up to a year’s battery life, tracking for activity and sleep, notification buzzes, waterproofing — as well as a number of interchangeable straps and styles available.
While the device is already gaining some traction within the crowdfunding community, it’s not the first venture Birkinshaw has embarked upon. At just 16-years-old, he ran a small t-shirt business, at 17 he launched an anonymous social media network, and in his spare time he currently helps develops apps for iOS — something which also helps fund the TCK project. This, of course, alongside the second year of his university studies.
His time producing t-shirts also helped him gain experience with outsourcing to China, something he notes has helped assist finding a manufacturer overseas.
“I initially tried to get it made at Durham University, then later just manufactured in the UK, but every time I did that it would wind up being £500-£600,” he explained. “So now we’ve got production in China and will be looking to turn the product around, providing we reach our goal, before Christmas.”
While Birkinshaw has its sights firmly set on delivering a quick turnaround with TCK Movement, there’s also plenty planned for the future. Not only is he aiming to offer different priced models as well as offering a more premium model with additional features — more advanced software is in the pipeline for future iterations.
“I’ve developed a piece of software that can recognise anaerobic exercises, so the watch would be able to understand push-ups, bench press — every exercise you have in the gym,” he said. “It logs what you’ve done, how many times you’ve done it, and in the future that’s something I’d like to incorporate into our watches. I’d also like to add posture into that and have the watch be able to track whether you performed a certain movement well, so hopefully that can come next time around.”
There’s no doubting TCK Movement is a great story, but is the device worthy of your consideration?
Well, the headline act here is the cheap price tag. The hybrid market itself isn’t wildly expensive, though this project does allow you to access much of the same functionality in a neat-looking package for around half the average price. Nothing pops out when you look at its list of features, keep in mind, but it does tick most of the boxes you would want from a basic fitness tracker.
Our main reservation here is the shipping date, which is scheduled for around a month’s time. It isn’t impossible, with Birkinshaw noting that everything is ready to go once funding is in place, but rarely do we see projects roll out in such a small space of time.
If you can live with potentially waiting a bit longer and don’t want to wait for the software smarts seemingly coming down the line, we’d suggest the TCK Movement is a solid hybrid smartwatch for those looking for something that doesn’t hit the wallet too hard.