April 15, 2024

An unknown company has a plan to change smartwatches forever

The Diesel On Fadelite X Mad Dog Jones smartwatch Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

“If you’re not into smartwatches today, especially as a traditional watch manufacturer, then we’re the way to get the right product for your customer.”

That’s how Steve Prokup, co-founder of Mijo Connected, described the company’s business, and it has me seriously intrigued and excited about the future of smartwatches. I spoke with Prokup via video call during CES 2024, and while you probably haven’t heard of Mijo Connected, and it probably won’t be the name of an actual product you’ll buy in the future, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. This is why.

Continuing where Fossil left off

Fossil / Fossil

Prokup has considerable experience in the world of wearables, having worked as head of hardware at Pebble before heading to Fossil, where he worked as vice president of engineering and senior vice president of connected devices. The other co-founder of Mijo Connected is Hai Nguyen, who also worked at Fossil in product management and research and development projects. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the company maintains a connection with Fossil, as Prokup told me.

“We are not part of Fossil. But we are following a similar path and we have access to some of the Fossil technology,” he said before adding that he could not explain more exactly what that meant. However, it is a strong sign of how seriously Mijo Connected takes smartwatches, as it makes a lot of sense to continue leveraging the experience of a long-established smartwatch manufacturer.

So what is Mijo Connected and why should you care? It plans to build a wearable device platform that some well-known fashion and luxury brands will eventually put their names to, allowing them to put out desirable, unique and fashionable smartwatches that also have the right technology and software to support the look.

If that sounds like a familiar strategy, it’s no different than how Fossil launched smartwatches with partner brands like Diesel, Kate Spade and Skagen. However, it has recently moved away from such ventures and Mijo Connected is poised to fill that space.

Smart watches for fashion and luxury brands.

The Montblanc Summit 3 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

“Our platform allows our clients to quickly launch completely differentiated products. So, for example, a brand wants to launch a smart watch. They don’t want a generic application; It must be his name. It has to have its brand, its style. Same for the watch, right? It has to look like a watch from that particular company. “That’s what our platform does.” Prokup explained.

“The underlying platform has a completely unique ID, so the look of the watch, the case, the strap, everything is completely designed by [the brand] because they usually have very good design teams that know how to implement the style of their brand. The same goes for the application and even data in the cloud.” he continued.

Mijo Connected will bring its industry expertise to brands that want to launch smart watches (and, in the future, other connected mobile devices such as wireless headphones and smart speakers), but do not want to invest in creating partnerships with software companies, manufacturers and then learn the hard way how to make a product that is representative of the brand. Mijo Connected will do all of this and bring with it a huge amount of customization, according to Prokup:

“We have a very similar approach to the way traditional watches are made, where the movement is wrapped in different designs and different cases. We can go to a premium titanium case, we can put pave [a reference to jewels set into a bezel or case] in it, or move to stainless steel and other alloys, or to plastic. If someone wants a lower priced plastic case with a silicone strap, it is also available on our platform,” he explained.

The extent of personalization and individualization provided has meant that Mijo Connected is talking to fashion and luxury brands about the possibility of working together, including some luxury brands that have already launched a smartwatch in the past. But what about the software that will run on these new smartwatches?

What about the software?

Google Pixel Watch 2 Joe Maring / Digital Trends

At CES, Mijo Connected launched its smartwatch platform with software company MicroEJ (pronounced Micro Edge) and revealed that it will use MicroEJ’s Vee Wear operating system in the future. While you may not know the name right away, you may have already used the MicroEJ platform on a wearable device, as it has powered smartwatches made by Polar in recent years.

I also spoke with Semir Haddad, director of strategy and products at MicroEJ, during CES 2024. He talked about the importance of complete customization on the software side as well, so that brands can make the device their own. He also revealed that one of the company’s strengths is how its technology makes it easy to adapt Wear OS apps to run on a non-Wear OS smartwatch. He’s already working under a variety of different names, plus he’s partnered with the Facer app to provide different watch faces.

Vee Wear has low power demands, but that doesn’t affect performance. Both are long-term problems with low-cost smartwatches that may have put off some fashion brands in the past. Vee Wear smartwatches will also work with Android and iOS phones, providing more flexibility. Does this mean that Mijo Connected won’t offer an option for a Wear OS smartwatch and will only work with MicroEJ?

“MicroEJ is a great partner,” Prokup said, “but we have a platform available for an RTOS watch, as well as a platform we are working on for Wear OS.” The choice of software options shows how it covers all smartwatch customization requirements outside of the physical design.

When will the watches arrive?

The Apple Watch Series 9 (above) and the Apple Watch Series 8 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Smartwatches right now are really dominated by three main models: the Apple Watch Series 9, the Google Pixel Watch 2, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, which are great, but aren’t always what someone who likes watches wants. traditional or fashion watches. . Mijo Connected is exciting because it is working to fill the gap in the market that Fossil left somewhat open, allowing brands that want to make a smartwatch to not have to go all out and become a technology company.

The company may be new, but it brings considerable experience and probably already has a good idea of ​​what works and what doesn’t when making a branded smartwatch. This should give confidence to companies that may have avoided a connected product in the past.

So when does Prokup expect the first models to arrive?

“We don’t have any release dates set, but as you know, in this space, [the fourth quarter] It’s big for everyone,” Prokup hinted before adding, “We’re working on a big launch with a brand.”

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Mijo Connected will mainly be the company behind smartwatches and may not be a name you hear unless you are “in the know.” But Prokup also mentioned that he might have a small product launch of his own, although not under the Mijo Connected name, at some point.

This would give us a great idea of ​​what to expect from their smartwatches in the future and how transformative they could be. This would also happen in an industry currently controlled by a select few technology brands that have historically not served fashion and watchmakers well. If everything goes as Mijo Connected hopes, it could well change the smartwatch market forever.

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