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Pal Strap - GPS & Extended Battery Strap For Pebble

Created by Powerstrap

Pal Strap - GPS & Extended Battery Strap For Pebble
C9008436ba0f98fcda8c0656b15ebcbc original
1,446 backers pledged $124,161.00 on Kickstarter

Pal is a revolutionary GPS and battery extender smartstrap for Pebble Time, Pebble Time Steel and Pebble Time 2

Raised in Kickstarter
$124,161.00 / 1,446 backers
Raised in BackerKit
$5,141.00 / 55 backers

Learn About Our Project:

Every Pebble deserves a Pal.

Hello, my name is David, and I have a passion for making great watchstraps! Along with my engineering colleagues, I've worked very closely with Pebble to create the world’s first GPS and battery extender Smartstrap for the following Pebble watches: Pebble Time, Pebble Time Steel, Pebble Time Round (20mm), Pebble 2, and Pebble Time 2.

  

  

 

 

 

The world’s first GPS and battery extender Smartstrap for Pebble watches (Time / Time Steel / Time Round / Pebble 2/Time 2). It’s lightweight and durable -- sure to be a great companion to your Pebble! The strap’s GPS is independent so you don’t rely on a connection to a smartphone and it features an extended battery so that you don’t have to worry about your battery -- it provides true freedom while out on the trail.

It features a high performance, independent GPS that allows users to track speed, distance, elevation and route for up to 24 hours without the need for a Smartphone. Begin your activity as soon as you go out, no time wasted idly waiting for a signal. Pal uses industry leading GPS (Qualcomm SiRF), which provides quick signal pickup.

The Pal Smartstrap extends the life of Pebble Time, Pebble Time Steel, Pebble Time Round (20mm), Pebble 2, and Pebble Time 2 for up to seven days, serving as a backup battery so users spend less time worrying about their next charge. Also, the Pebble and strap share the same charger for hassle-free charging. In case of emergency, the Pal can be used as a battery back-up to the Pebble.

Pal’s companion app for iOS and Android offers instant access to GPS performance data, which can be shared with friends and family. Review the location log records from the GPS, and display the route and running information (e.g. pace, speed, lap time, altitude, etc.) on both Android and iOS. Users can even preset targets and measure performance against their goals. 

Sharing: Users can upload records to their preferred social platform (e.g Facebook or Twitter) through shortcut keys in app so they can share their progress.

I've been in the watch strap manufacturing business for years and have witnessed smartwatch makers treat watch straps as a secondary component. The straps that I saw were procured at the last minute and with little engineering effort put into the strap design. 

Pal started in 2014 with the question “Why don’t we make better use of straps for smartwatches?” I brought up the ideas to two other engineers - CC and Edwin, whose backgrounds are in electronics, mechanical engineering and the battery business. The three musketeers of Powerstrap put together a conceptual battery strap prototype and presented it to Pebble. They have been great partners in helping us identify what would be of most use to the Pebble community, best practices and gave feedback which helped us perfect the design.

 

 The reason we named our strap "Pal" is because it's a true and trusted companion to your Pebble!

Pal is comprised of a Qualcomm SiRF GPS module, a 250mAh Li-ion battery and a micro-controller unit that handles GPS data calculation, power management and active communication with Pebble. When Pal’s GPS is turned on, it consumes power only from its own battery and not Pebble’s battery.

Raw GPS data received from satellites are processed by Pal’s MCU and results are pumped to Pebble for display and storage. Through our efficient power management intelligence, Pal’s battery recharges Pebble’s battery only when the user manually activates the function or when Pebble’s battery drops to very low level and triggers auto-charging. 

Connecting pins between Pal and Pebbles are surrounded by soft gasket. This structure makes Pal water resistant but most likely cannot withstand prolonged submersion such as swimming or diving. In any case, even if water goes between connecting pins, Pal’s electronic design has protection measure and it won’t be damaged.

Technical Specs:
GNSS support: GPS only
TTFF cold fix time: about 40 seconds under open sky. Location fix time can be accelerated by AGPS (working in progress with Qualcomm)
Location hot fix: within 10 seconds

Certification: planned to be done upon campaign success and product launch: CE, FCC, IC

Battery technical Specs: Battery capacity: 250mAh Battery chemistry: Lithium Ion Polymer Nominal Voltage: 3.8V Pebble Watch’s battery: can be charged from either PAL’s internal battery or external charging port underneath PAL Internal battery of PAL: charge up from charging port underneath PAL

Pal (even when combined with the Pebble watch) is 20% lighter and more compact than the average GPS while still offering enhanced functionalities.

 

 

In order to do this, along with providing optimal durability, flexibility and weight without compromising looks we used TPU. This material also allows us to engineer an ergonomic strap curvature to ensure that it fits comfortably.

 

 

The material is a TPU material, which is carefully selected for the right durability and flexibility without compromising on looks. Also offers an ergonomically engineered strap curvature to ensure that it fits comfortably without compromising on looks.

 

Pal for Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel and Pal-TR for Pebble Time Round Colors 

Pal-T2 for Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2  Colors

 

Excluding our Kickstarter costs, our campaign goal of USD 80,000 covers mass production tooling, procuring minimum-order-quantity of electronic components, first lot production cost and upcoming testing certification cost.

 

We have been working very closely with Pebble to provide the best strap for the amazing Pebble community since 2014. We have been diligently working on this and just need the last funding to get production started. 

 

Since day one we have decided to make Pal an open platform GPS strap. Our object has always been making the GPS strap as useful to most Pebble users as possible. We have been helping Pebble to refine its API related to GPS functions. We are expecting developers to look into our API and develop new app with Pal. If you have ideas, don’t be shy. Contact us at pal@palstrap.com.

Developers that have already raised their hands and started looking into Pal 3rd party development:

 

Powerstrap was founded in 2014 by three engineers headed by David Yeung. The team has strong development backgrounds and passion for watches, electronics, mechanical design and batteries. Inspired by the growing applications of smart watches that were originated by Pebble, the Powerstrap team immediately took note that there were limitations in battery power with most smart watches. Together, they pledged to resolve this constraint by utilizing the watch strap and buckle to provide the extra battery life sorely missing. Their initial battery watch strap prototypes had impressed Pebble and thus led to collaboration in developing Pal - GPS & battery strap for Pebble. Powerstrap will continue to explore solutions that will equip smart watches with more power and functions.

 

Latest Updates from Our Project:

App Update with GPS export (GPX) function
17 days ago – Wed, Jul 05, 2017 at 11:22:12 PM

Dear all,

We have put up our latest version of Hey Pal phone app (both IOS and Android versions) at app stores recently.  The latest version has included the GPS data export (GPX) function.  You may now export an exercise record to a third party exercise/sports record platform like Strava.  The new version has also fixed the record delete function.

Earlier we have also put up a new version of Pebble Hey Pal watch app which has added 1) km/mile selection and 2) GPS/GLONASS system selection.

Hope the refined versions have address need and request by many of you.

Thank you!

David and The Pal Team

Reminders on 1st time using Pal
about 1 month ago – Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 07:41:28 PM

Dear Pal backers,    

Many of you have received Pal by now. For those who are still waiting, the shipments are reaching the last mile. Please be patient.  

We have heard feedbacks and questions in first time using Pal.  Most common problems faced are 1) “STATUS stays red” and 2) “GPS is SEARCHING forever”. These situations can be rectified with some start-up steps taken. We have addressed them in the comment column. We have also put them up on the FAQ page at our website (www.palstrap.com/FAQ). I outline them here as well:  

1) Be reminded to fully charge Pal before use. Pal’s battery level is low now as it has left factory more than a month. Charge it for 4 hours. You may charge it alone or together with Pebble. Too low battery may not power up the strap (“Status” remains red) or may not effectively activate GPS module - “Searching” forever can be due to low power as well.  

2) You need open sky to start using GPS. Open sky means clearance above 30 degrees elevation. You’ll probably get open sky in the middle of a football field or big park. In downtown Manhattan you can hardly find an open sky. Weather (sunny, cloudy or light rain) is less relevant. See video (https://youtu.be/CVx-58BbAhE ) we demonstrate our environment and steps to start GPS.  

Open Sky
Open Sky

 

Not open sky
Not open sky

GPS needs stronger signals and from more satellites to compute the initial position, hence open sky is needed. Once it has location fixed, tracking can work even without open sky (i.e. outdoor will do). For more information related to GPS location fix, please refer to the FAQ page.  www.palstrap.com/FAQ

3) Simply reset Pal if needed. In case you still have problem with Pal, simply reset it by removing it from Pebble for 10 seconds then put it back on. Reset would reboot the MCU of strap but does not erase any memory log.  

About app improvement: 

 Many users have requested GPS export function. Our app developer is working on it. The next app update in few weeks’ time should have GPS export function included. Some of you have reported bug related record delete function. It will be fixed too.  

About logistics: 

 Backers in some countries have report import duty or custom clearance charges. I am sorry that we are unable to cover related cost as import rules and regulations vary from countries.      

Regards, 

David & the Pal Team

Production and Shipment Status Update
3 months ago – Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 12:12:10 AM

Dear Pal backers,  

Our shipment schedule slipped. Due to one component delay 3 weeks ago, production hasn’t finished per what I announced last month. The latest schedule I worked out with the factory is 8 May. On that day, all processes, including factory quality inspections shall be all done and in full quantity, and the Pal team will conduct a final acceptance and endorse the goods for shipment. I apologize for the delay again. The factory and I were over-confident on the schedule and gave you false expectation.  

About logistics:  

1) We have just sent out emails to some of the backers.  Per feedback from our logistics service provider, we cannot process non-alpha numeric characters (such as Asian characters or symbols) in the delivery address.  We need the concerned backers update their delivery info to us.  

2) We will send emails to some of you who has given only PO Box address. Pure PO Box address doesn’t work as some local delivery service may require signature from receiver. You will need to give us physical delivery address for delivery.  

3) We are also removing accent of alphabets in some of your addresses. This is to avoid unrecognized characters when compiling the delivery info. Per our logistics service provider, modified alphabets are OK for delivery.  

About software: We have resolved few major bugs in the past 3 weeks, including one leading to operation instability related to Pebble smartstrap API weak spot. Special thanks to the developer Ish Ot Jr who volunteered to run field trial and look into our software bugs.  

Below please find screenshots of Pal phone app showing GPS tracked route with our field trial data in Hong Kong today.  

Regards,

David & the Pal Team

 

 

Pal shipping info confirmation and production complete countdown
4 months ago – Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 11:15:31 PM

Dear backers,  

We have been cautiously testing the improved 1st production batch for more than 2 weeks.  The result is so far so good.  The weak adhesion and bad contact with charging cord is resolved.  The entire structure is now sturdier with improved water resistance. GPS performance is stable and reliable.  The evaluation has not completed yet as some reliability tests are still going on.  Despite that, we have confidence in the hardware and we are proceeding to the mass run.  Production should complete in 3 weeks if no problem pop up during then.

In parallel, we are pushing hard to finalize the Pal watch app and fix remaining bugs.  We are also rushing to complete the Android and IOS phone App.  Recently we found bugs related to Pebble’s smartstrap API -- Pebble sometimes couldn’t quit smartstrap mode after using Pal.  In that case Pebble would drain its own battery and affects other application.  Nevertheless, we are working with the Pebble (Fitbit) team as well as the experts in the Pebble community to look into the bugs.  We shall fix all them in time.

About logistics:  We are sending out mailing address confirmation emails these few days.  Please note the email will not be sent through the Kickstarter system but from our work email address.  Please check your email from time to time and let us know any correction as soon as possible.  We shall pass our mailing list to the logistics service provider in early April.

In the coming week, we shall invite few backers in Hong Kong to try out the strap from our 1st production batch.  We shall share the news afterwards.

Best Regards,  

David and the Pal team

Jan 2017 Production Update
6 months ago – Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 07:19:24 PM

Dear backers,  

Happy New Year, hope you all had a nice holiday.  

We are back from the CES exhibition. Pal strap did catch some very good attention from the public. A lot of Pebble users stopped by and had a chat with us. We are honored to meet a few Pal backers during the show, thank you for stopping by and meet with us! We appreciated all your feedback and encouraging words.

 

First production samples
First production samples

 

First production samples
First production samples

As mentioned, the Pal straps that we brought to the show are the first production samples. They were made virtually 24 hours before we flew off to the show. We are pretty happy with its physical outcome and finish. However, we did find a few issues from these production samples and we must fix them for mass production:  

  • The connection of the charging cord to Pal is not stable. A slight elevation of the contact face is needed to maintain a sturdy magnetic adhesion and electrical contact. 
  • There is a weak point in the circuit board which causes high yield loss when the cradle is assembled. Modification of circuit board is needed.

These issues are normal from production samples’ point of view and are not tricky. We have been aggressively planned that our first production lot should be good for delivery. We regret to tell you that perhaps we were over-confident with this first lot. We are fixing the issues now and we estimate delivery will be in March. It is much deferred mainly due to the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays starting next week and in China, factories will be closed as workers typically take leaves for 2-4 weeks for the holidays. Unfortunately, the long holidays are out of our control.

We sincerely apologize for the further delay, we will keep working hard to reach the destination, and surely will continue to keep you all posted.  

Thank you again for all your support and patience, and most importantly, sticking with us.  

Best Regards,  
David and the Pal team