Good tool with too small market can get a second chance – a hardware hack saves Zeo

Philipp Kalwies speaking on his hardware hack with Zeo (photo: Magnus Nilsson)

What happens when you find a measurement tool that you really like – and the manufacturer runs out of business? Philipp Kalwies couldn’t let go of sleep tracker Zeo. Now he makes a copy that is released as open source.

At the Quantified Self Europe 2015 conference in Amsterdam, German entrepreneur Philipp Kalwies talked about his hardware hack and what he’s been doing since his favourite tracking tool disappeared from the market.

Philipp Kalwies used Zeo, a tracking device designed as a headband. Philipp was very pleased with it, not least because the data Zeo resulted in was very accurate, and that he actually could get much out of that data. Especially concerning sleep.

But the sensors in the headband were fragile and needed to be replaced frequently, so the product actually resembled a subscribed service. You did in fact have to purchase a new headband every three months. It was a bit of work using the Zeo.

It didn’t get any better as the Zeo manufacturer went bust. At first Philipp and other enthusiastic users could find headbands on Ebay, but they became increasingly expensive. In the end, there were none at all to get.

But Philipp is not the kind of person that gives up too easily. He sent out a request to a network of freelance developers – was there possibly someone out there that could assist in developing a copy of the Zeo headband?

Yes, there was. And now, Philipp and his developer has made a prototype, a copy that actually is a bit better than the original – as technology has progressed since Zeo’s days. They are not totally finished yet, but hope to be able to resolve the last technical problems soon.

So, what happens next?

If Philipp manages to settle the last pieces of the puzzle, the plan is not to start manufacturing and selling the product as “Zeo 2”. Philipp believes that the market is too small and he’s too busy with his regular activities at Decimo anyway.

But there is an interest from other manufacturers to supplement their products with Zeo, especially companies operating in the field of sleep and measurement. The components of Zeo are really cheap, so to be able to add a really precise measurement tool to another product can be an attractive package. If not for any other reason, just to reach the target group that is like Philipp.

So when Philipp finishes developing the copy of his favorite product, the whole project will be published as open source. Free for those who want to use it – and for those who want to further improve it.

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