Modular components gives rise to customised mixing and matching

Posted by Flux on 

18 October 2016

smart devices built with flexible modular compounds

What’s trending:

The use of modularity sees an exploration in the creation of everyday smart devices with modular capabilities. Smart devices such as cell phones, tablets and computers are designed with interchangeable modular components that can be removed or added to the device. This enhances the functionality of the device in accordance to the user’s preference, i.e. switching the storage component for a camera lens component. 

Why it’s important:

Modularity gives customers control to ‘upgrade’ and personalise their device as they please. Such abilities will see a disruption of the traditional structure of manufacturing and designing of devices. Traditionally smart phone designers and manufacturers dictate features installed in new models as well as the expected lifespan of the product.

The ability to detach and install components to enhance the device means customers can upgrade and alter the lifespan of the device quicker than manufactures are accustomed to.  However this opens a window of opportunity as designers have the chance to explore specialised technical developments faster as they will be focused on smaller components. This may also open prospects of merging of industries such as the mobile industry creating gaming control components to enhance the gaming experience on a mobile device.

Butterfly effect:

The exploration of modular devices sees the aim of creating a sustainable technological ecosystem. Start-ups such as Fairphone, which is said to have produced the world’s first modular cell phone, aim to create a device that enables customers to upgrade their device without throwing away the entire device. By swapping components that are broken or outdated, customers are now able to keep their cell phones for longer; thereby making the concept sustainable and economically sufficient.


The mobile industry seems to be leading the race in the exploration of modularity. This was first noted in 2013 by the Dutch designer Dave Halken who presented the idea of Phonebloks. The company was later merged with Google, leading to Google’s Project Ara, which aims to create a fully functional modular phone. Project Ara is set to be released in 2017. Competing companies such as LG have released LG G5 and Lenovo’s Motorola are set to release Moto Z which contains modular add-ons such as camera and audio components.

Acer has released a modular PC named Revo. The PC allows customers to build their desktop computer in the same manner one would build a Lego set. Customers can add in features such as speakers or storage space by simply placing the component on top of the computers core block.

In 2015 Microsoft published a patent application for a modular computing device. The application mentions how the modular components will enable gesture recognition and could serve output devices for holographic projection, thus merging the possibility of the PC’s compatibility with HoloLens.

The global hot spots: USA and China

By: Khumo Theko

About Khumo


Khumo is our in house Research and Operations Assistant. She aims to unpack the influential cultural layers that make the African continent tick. While joining the dots that lead to innovative creations and solutions that are shaping the way we live and interact.

Image credit: Google ATAP 

Video credit: Google ATAP

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