Modular Technology

A big German phone company advertises with the slogan “every year a new smartphone” and promises to send its customers a new device once a year. After such a short time, electronic devices are often already broken, and there is evidence that this is related to “planned obsolescence”. The problem is that it is often not possible to replace one broken pat of the device, so that it is necessary to buy a completely new one. This leads to the generation of incredible amounts of electronic waste, which poses serious environmental problems in several regions worldwide (for example in Ghana). Since a few years a new way school of thought has developed which is also being followed by an ever increasing number of technology firms. Technology developers research on modular devices which can be modified according to the customers’ needs.

The research on “phonebloks” takes place at several locations simultaneously. The single components of a smartphone (GPS, camera, internet receiver, etc.) are being produced in modular blocks which can be combined like Lego-bricks. In this way it is possible to replace the single component when one wants to have a better camera or speaker without buying an entirely new device.

The same model is being developed for smartwatches. The single components are inside the chain-links and the dial serves as the user’s interface.

More modular technology leads directly to the reduction of electronic waste. Furthermore it is possible to adapt the devices to the personal needs of the customers.

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