I want to create a simple smartwatch that can receive text messages via Bluetooth/wifi from a computer. However I start doing research on necessary components and either get completely professional chips that do much more than needed (also extremely expensive) or simple plug ins for arduino. Where can I start searching for this parts? which companies should I look? Also important information on other parts that could help me with this project will be greatly appreciated.


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  • \$\begingroup\$ What are you doing for living? Are you a hardware engineer? What are other requirements? What kind of chip you expect to see? \$\endgroup\$ – Gregory Kornblum Oct 29 '16 at 21:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ What you describe requires a wireless connection and an LCD, and obviously a battery. Putting that in a watch-sized encolsure is not a simple task, and will be terribly expensive for a one-off. \$\endgroup\$ – Wouter van Ooijen Oct 29 '16 at 21:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ An Android phone and duct tape should suffice \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Oct 29 '16 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ "or simple plug ins for arduino" - what's wrong with that? arduiner.com/en/news-september-2016/… \$\endgroup\$ – Bruce Abbott Oct 29 '16 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if you get a very cheap Bluetooth LE to UART bridge (search CC2540, chip made by TI, or HM-10 for examples), let that be the prepackaged wireless interface. Interface to that with a small uC to handle the display. \$\endgroup\$ – rioraxe Oct 30 '16 at 0:28

Any wearable computer project needs these subsystems:

  • Power - A Li-Ion battery is ideal. This requires a charge controller and regulators to provide your voltage rails.
  • Output - You'll find miniature OLED displays that are perfect for a smartwatch. Also consider a vibrating motor for notifications and haptic feedback.
  • Input - Buttons are easiest to implement. You can also consider an IMU, jog dial, or even a five-way tactile joystick.
  • Connectivity - Bluetooth Low Energy is ideal for a smartwatch. The HM-10 is a commodity part, but the state of the art does change often. Find one that comes preconfigured with a GATT server to make things easier.
  • Processing - The state of the art changes too quickly for a recommendation. I've used the Teensy 3.2 for many projects because it's small and Arduino compatible. Find something easy to develop for. If this is your first project, use a development board instead of mounting a processor on a custom PCB - burning a bootloader is complex.
  • Enclosure - You'll likely need to use a 3D printer or laser cutter. For prototyping, you can simply hot-glue a watchband or Velcro strap to your electronics.

I always recommend prototyping first with off-the-shelf modules, then design a custom PCB once you've tested your project.

If this is a little complex for your project, you could consider a complete off-the-shelf system. TinyDuino sells a complete kit that includes display, power management, processor, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Bear in mind that the computer client will likely be far more complex than the hardware. Slap some hardware together ASAP so you can focus on seamlessly forwarding notifications to the watch and work on your UX.


I really like Zack's answer (and upped it.) He's telling you to get out there and prototype things so that you know what basic functions are required and exactly how they will need to operate together. Then you can sit back and review all that effort and detail to come up with a well-vetted approach. It's doable. But there's a lot you need to work through first.

I worked on the Seiko Message Watch. This watch received messages from the sidebands of city-wide FM transmitters, picked off of a loop of messages as convenient. There are some truly difficult problems, though. One is power consumption and battery resources. The Seiko watch would literally work for up to two years off of one button cell. Consider that for a moment! Another is packaging and size. Another is that people don't buy watches for time, but truly more as jewelry.

You are going to have to do some very very serious work to figure out your energy budget. You can only turn on the receiver every so often (and not too often), since receivers take up lots of power. (So do transmitters, but that's another issue.) In the Seiko watch situation, the receiver was the biggest hog of power. Not the watch, or time-keeping. It was the receiver that was a big pig. So you need to carefully nurture this.

There are so many different details you need to work out. But probably the power budget and the size are going to be the biggest problems for you. And if you are serious about something actually wearable as a watch, then you have a huge hurdle there, as well, in figuring out how you will get power, antenna, receiver and transmitter (for Wifi, you need both), and all the rest into something that can be reasonably worn and will last at least some modestly reasonable period of time on a tiny battery supply system.

It will truly be a long process for you, I expect, with many hurdles to surmount in the process. I think this is part of why I like Zack's advice so much. There are lots of pieces you can get to work out the detailed functioning, just to see if you can climb over those. If you do, then you will have MANY MORE yet ahead of you. But at least you managed to divide this into two pieces -- proof of concept and eventual implementation. If you can't prove the concept, you can save yourself the rest of the headaches.

Best wishes. But this is serious work ahead.

Just as a boost up, though, let me recommend that you start with one of the Texas Instruments' eZ430 Chronos Development Tool watches. They come in different frequency flavors (I have all three of them.) You can get a complete development system at no cost, they include a 96 segment LCD, and a USB stick with which to communicate with them, as well. You can learn a great deal using them as a start. Probably the closest thing I can think of as a nearby solution to try out. You can certainly send them messages!! So this may be a complete solution for you without any hardware development at all. Just software. Check it out. (I'm using them to develop grand mal seizure detection for people who suffer from that problem.)


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