Next time, when you see people talking with their hand on the ear with no phone but just a watch on the wrist, don’t be bewildered, they must be using the HBand. You may ask, “How can a band or watch replace a phone?” But, HBand, with its unique concept, makes it possible to talk without a phone.
HBand is a luxury leather watch strap that is compatible with most of the smartwatches. It has a built-in Bluetooth audio fob, which compensates for the need of a phone during a call. This compact, ultra-slim Bluetooth headset is embedded in the watch strap but can be easily removed, thereby making it both audio on the wrist and headset on the wrist.
Private calling/hands-on and headset modes
HBand provides the convenience of phone call in two modes: hands-on mode and headset mode.
Mobile phones have advanced to such an extent that call features are being provided in smartwatches. So there are no issues like the phone getting lost. Surprisingly, though, none of smartwatches provides call handling in private mode. HBand completes Apple or other smartwatches by adding the private call feature that they lack, using the patented Hands-on-Talk technology.
You just have to flip open the fob and raise your hand to the ear to take the phone call. There is no need to reach for your phone and rush to pick it up. This is called hands-on mode, and is the ideal solution for a quick phone call.
If you must take a longer call, you can pull out the fob from the watch strap, insert it in your ear and use the device like a normal Bluetooth headset. This is called the headset mode.
Directional audio is fired from the bottom of the wrist, at higher volume and pressures with sufficient back volume, towards the palm of the user. When the palm is held in cupped position to the ear, it acts like a parabolic reflector, redirecting the sound to the ear.
Typically, the audio is omnidirectional. Partial directivity can be given to the audio by firing at a close range with proper openings. HBand uses normal micro speakers with suitably designed back volume, front volume and openings to provide partial directivity. This method renders partial to full private sound.
Bluetooth and the microphone
HBand uses the same technology as that of basic Bluetooth headsets. To achieve the higher volumes required for hands-on private calling, though, the amplification circuit of a basic headset is modified. A couple of hardware components are used to make the concept possible, the most important being a Bluetooth communication module to provide two-way audio to the phone. A directional speaker is used to fire audio to the user’s hand, while an omnidirectional microphone placed beside the speaker reads the user’s speech. Noise-cancellation algorithms are included to cancel out the wind and other ambient noises. The watch strap uses a quick-snap magnetic buckle, which provides docking for the Bluetooth audio fob.
Shrinking circuits to fit the mechanical complexity
“The biggest challenge was to shrink the circuits and achieve speaker back volumes in a slim form factor suitable for the wrist,” shares Ram Pattikonda, chief technology officer (CTO), iMetrix Technology—the company behind HBand.
HBand uses a new strap clasping concept that accommodates the slim fob on the wrist and makes fob-open and pull-out functions easy, without adding to the thickness on the wrist. The electronics and the audio acoustics are miniaturised, while maintaining the style and multi-function capability. The HBand product development took about one-and-a-half years because of the delays in plastic tooling, packaging and integration due to the product’s mechanical complexity. The electronics system, though complex, was designed in less than six months.
Essentials always on your wrist
Almost all smartwatches feature music, call display, weather information and message notification. HBand enhances these features with its audio support and easy-to-use mechanical structure. Its innovative combination of mechanical, electronic and acoustic features takes ordinary smartwatches to another level. The product has already been launched in India and the US.
In fact, there is more to come. The next version of HBand is being designed with focus on better product design and touch-button facilities. The team is also working towards adding features like fitness and sleep tracker, high-resolution OLED display and notification with scrolling text, while extending the battery life to one week.
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Ankita K.S. is audience development editor at EFY, and secretary of IEEE-YP. She is an engineering graduate, and writes articles on technology for electronicsforu.com