There are three big names in the smartwatch operating system space at the moment: Apple’s WatchOS, Google’s Android Wear, and Samsung’s Tizen. But the makers of the upcoming BLOCKS modular smartwatch couldn’t use any of those because they wouldn’t support the plug-and-play modules BLOCKS wanted to support. So the company developed its own Android-based software.
Now BLOCKS is kicking off an initiative that could help make it easier for other developers to build a smartwatch OS.
Project OpenWatch is open source project that provides a Linux kernel and an Android Oreo Board Support Package for watches that use the same MediaTek MTK6580M chipset used in the BLOCKS smartwatch.
While BLOCKS isn’t releasing the source code for its full operating system, providing this framework will make it easier for third-party developers to create their own custom smartwatch operating systems that can run on MTK6580M watches… including the Blocks Watch.
At launch, OpenWatch will also support a number of $100 (or less) watches including the Zeblaze Thor, Lemfo LES1, and Kingwear KW88, KW98, and KW99, just to name a few.
BLOCKS says developers of popular Android custom ROMs including LineageOS and CarbonROM have already started working with OpenWatch code and plan to make smartwatch ROMs available starting March 15th.
For now the plan is to focus on aftermarket firmware (something you install on a watch that originally shipped with a different operating system), but it’s possible this could lay the foundation for future watches that could ship with LineageOS, CarbonROM, or other operating systems developed using Project OpenWatch code.
Or maybe not. It’s still not clear if there’s enough demand for a fourth smartwatch operating system for that to happen… or if this will even really be the fourth. After all, Fitbit has its own operating system. And a number of other companies have already shipped watches in the with “smart” features, but without Android Wear, Tizen, or WatchOS.