Soprod, iomedia, the Icare research institute and HES-SO Valais-Wallis

Valais boasts an effective and coordinated information and communication technologies value chain, as evidenced by the growing number of successful practical projects, including in environments subject to significant worldwide competition such as connected watches. For example, Soprodiomedia, the Icare research institute and HES-SO Valais-Wallis together made a major contribution to the development of Breitling’s new smartwatch. Worthy recognition of the role Valais plays in industry and innovation!

B55 Connected is the name of Breitling‘s new connected watch. This timepiece cleverly incorporates various technologies developed by Valais SMEs and research institutes. For several years, the Sion-based SME Soprod, which employs around a hundred staff, has conceived, developed and produced quartz movements and technologies for connected watches for Breitling and other prestigious watch brands.

Always looking for new ways to innovate, Soprod approached the Institute of Systems Engineering at HES-SO Valais-Wallis as early as 2012. The two partners went on to develop a connected analogue quartz movement whose bidirectional motors (the watch hands) are controlled through an iPhone app via Bluetooth LE.

The smartphone as an extension of the wristwatch
This technology, proven to work on an industrial scale, then became available to Breitling, which was keen to offer its customers a connected watch. The Swiss watchmaker wanted its watch to remain the key element and not be turned into a faceless gadget, insisting that the mobile phone became an extension to the watch and not vice versa.

In 2014, Soprod approached the Icare research institute, based in Sierre, about designing and developing the mobile app required. Another aspect of the project was the two companies’ joint development of the technology enabling the watch and the mobile app to ‘talk’ to each other efficiently, drawing on Icare’s more than 15 years’ experience in mobile services and the Internet of Things. A fourth Valais-based player was also involved in this project: the IT company iomedia, which was responsible for the graphic design of the mobile application for the B55 Connected.

As a result, all of the watch’s functions can be controlled via the mobile app. The app is able to collect, display and share all of the resulting data, including information used by airline pilots (flight data, flight time, break durations, etc.). The watch can also be set to vibrate or play a tone. Lastly, watch updates can be applied directly from the app.

Putting Valais know-how to good use
This project is an excellent example of how the expertise available in Valais and the handy connections that exist between the different economic and institutional players here can be put to good use. Here, Soprod conceived, developed and produced the connected movement, HES-SO Valais-Wallis took on the communication aspect via the Bluetooth LE protocol, and Icare and iomedia developed the mobile app and how it communicates with the watch.

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