The Swatch Group has built the world’s smallest low-energy Bluetooth chip, designed to improve the autonomy and connectivity of watches and small devices. The R&D news comes as the Swiss watchmaking industry hopes to recover from its longest slump since the 1980s.
The tiny integrated circuit, designed by EM Microelectronic, Swatch Group R & D and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) in Neuchâtel, measures just five square millimeters but its surface is packed with five million transistors.
Swatch claims that it is the smallest Bluetooth chip in the world, with the lowest energy consumption and highest start-up speed capability.
“The ultra-miniaturization of electronic components is crucial for the densification of functions in portable electronic devices and for the Internet of Things,” it said in a statement on Friday.
The device, with the latest Bluetooth standard, version 5.0., is aimed at increasing the autonomy of connected objects.
“It can work alone or in conjunction with various sensors; system integrators can take advantage of a microcontroller with very low power consumption or can use the chip to add a Bluetooth communication function to any portable electronic device,” Swatch added.
The Swiss watchmaking industry is emerging from its longest slump since the 1980s, when competition from cheap quartz watches nearly drove it out of business. Swiss watch exports fell 9.9% in 2016, the biggest drop in seven years, as high-end timepieces went unsold on retailers’ shelves in Hong Kong, the industry’s largest market, and the United States.
The boom years, when exports doubled during the early 2000s, are long gone. But the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry says it expects exports to stabilize in 2017 as initial signs of a rebound emerge. Luxury group Richemont, which makes watches under a dozen brands, has reported a return to growth in sales of watches at its own stores in the final three months of 2016.
The Swatch Group is also optimistic about the prospect of a return to "healthy growth" this year.
"Based on the positive development of the last three months, healthy growth is expected for the year 2017," the company, based in Biel in western Switzerland, said in January, pointing to a turnaround in mainland China over the last three months.