A newly awarded patent from Intel has been spotted at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that describes a design for modular and customizable wrist-borne wearables. Specifically, the patent is aimed at solving a problem Intel saw in the wearable market pertaining to oversaturation and an increasing desire by manufacturers to use "exotic" materials such as titanium and high-grade alloys. Those materials often cause problems with connectivity components associated with and the operation of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GSM, CDMA, and NFC radio hardware. Intel's patent seeks to solve that via manufacturer-customizable hardware designed to allow the antennas to radiate outside of the device housing. That would be made possible by a modular layout.
The patent doesn't necessarily mean 'modular' in the sense that the average user would be able to swap out components on a whim, as has been conceptualized for some smartphones or other hardware and accessories. Instead, it would be similar to how some PC and laptop companies enable consumers to customize their build before it ships – during the assembly process. That would essentially mean that a prospective customer could go to a smartwatch manufacturers website and change the watch or fitness wearable to suit their own style or needs. For example, they could feasibly opt to include a carbon fiber watch face bezel over a stainless steel body or utilize a carbon fiber body and a titanium bezel. The choice would be left up to the buyer. It may even have included options for internal components such as a heart-rate monitor or NFC chip being optional. In turn, that all would amount to a wider diversity of smartwatches or other wearables that end-users could design for optimal features, performance, style, and pricing.
Having said all of that, Intel did actually close down its wearable and AR unit back in April of this year after the department 'failed to show promise' and the company was forced to begin laying off workers. So there's a very good chance that this patent, which was actually filed back in 2017 before being approved this week, won't ever make its way into any Intel-branded hardware. On the other hand, the company may choose to refine or license its patent out to wearable OEMs or to relaunch its wearable division in the future. That just doesn't seem to be likely for the time being.