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VNU Net: IBM researchers develop Linux wristwatch

Aug 09, 2000, 00:55 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Leyden)

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By John Leyden, VNU Net

Linux Watch IBM researchers have unveiled a prototype wristwatch running the Linux operating system (OS) in a move demonstrating that the open source technology can run on the smallest of devices.

The so-called 'smart watch' weighs in at just 42g, and boasts the sort of features that even James Bond would take an interest in. It boasts infrared and wireless connectivity, along with 8Mb of flash memory and another 8Mb of dynamic Ram. It contains an embedded processor running version 2.2 of Linux.

Designed to communicate wirelessly with PCs, cell phones and other devices, the watch will have the ability to view condensed email messages and receive short text messages directly.

A touch sensitive screen and roller-wheel allow users to access applications that include calendar, address book and to-do functions.

IBM said future enhancements will include a high-resolution screen and applications that will allow the watch to become an internet access device.

DetailPeter Lemon, research manager at IDC, said Linux was a strong proposition in the embedded market, but added that the watch is more of a gadget for IBM researchers than a commercial product.

"The functions in the device will only be realistic when you have voice recognition. We haven't seen anything yet in that form factor, though IBM have come out with a wearable PC which used a pair of glasses instead of a screen," he said. "IBM is trying to show it is up to date because it has been seen as a bit fuddy duddy in the past."

But Big Blue insists that the device is more than just a gimmick and that it demonstrates the suitability of the Linux OS for embedded systems.

"Several benefits accrue from the use of Linux in small pervasive devices," said the company in a statement on its research. "The availability of source code and a well-understood application programming environment make it easy for students, researchers and software companies to add new features and develop applications."

Among the technologies IBM is developing for similar devices are packaging, displays, processors, hardware encryption, low power systems, wireless protocols, user interfaces, privacy models, middleware and applications. Other devices that could leverage these technologies include personal digital assistants, and smart identification badges and other wearable devices.

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