A Diving Suit for Electronics

The smartphone market is taking a dive with HzO nanotechnology support

When walking into a room full of people, chances are that most of them have a smartphone or tablet on them – the default setting. However there are still some rather hostile areas for the smart devices, with the steam room or the bottom of the bathtub featuring prominently on the list. Here, the HzO with Waterblock makes it entrance.

Waterblock is a nano-coating that isolates the internal electronics of a device. It is a technology based on molecular level – thinner than a single hair, but very dense. HzO’s Executive Vice President of Business Development, Rick Peterson explains that in a way it is just like the usually applied hydrophobic plasma coating, which changes the contact angle of the water.

“It is like when you wax your car and then the water beads up and rolls off,” he explains for the layman.

Yet this type of technology only protects from splash and spray incidents where the water has somewhere to roll off to and should the phone be submerged, the rather porous plasma coating will eventually be penetrated. This is where the molecules in Waterblock’s™ nano-coat differ as bind together tightly, creating a solid impenetrable surface that makes the electronic absolutely waterproof, if it were not for the charging and USB slots.

The technology itself has come a long way as it was first created by a maritime institute in the Northeast of the US.

“They had lost a couple of lives due to [people] going overboard and having their communication devices fail because of the moisture,” Peterson explains.

These tragic events gave the institute the motivation to begin work on a way to keep their devices operational even after water entered them. The institute took the technology as far as they could when about three and a half years ago ZAGG, a phone accessories company, acquired the majority share and detached a small team to further develop it. It was initially thought to be an aftermarket feature, but price and complexity made it more sensible to integrate it into the manufacturing process. In August 2011, ZAGG decided to spin-off HzO and create a new privately held company with additional investors, bring Waterblock™ to the market through the manufacturers of mobile devices.

“The idea of protection from water was proven popular with US providers like AT&T and T-Mobile as they were the ones dealing with the customers, who were upset or disappointed that their phones were being destroyed by moisture or water damage”

When Mr Peterson was approached by his former business partner Paul Clayson, who is now CEO and president of HzO, with the opportunity to be part of the executive team that would introduce Waterblock™ to the world, he had already worked in international business development for over 15 years, set up two of his own companies and worked as a consultant for others in more than 14 countries worldwide, but decided to take on another project anyway.

The idea of protection from water was soon proven popular with US providers like AT&T and T-Mobile.

“They were the ones dealing with the customers, who were upset or disappointed that their phones were being destroyed by moisture or water damage.”

Those external supporters helped HzO to encourage brands and manufacturers to integrate their nanotechnology, which led the spin-off company’s staff to increase tenfold and the first manufacturers officially announced the integration of Waterblock™ at the CES in Las Vegas in January this year. One of them is the Swiss luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer, who will have a luxury phone coming out with Waterblock™ technology inside. It is likely that other companies will follow at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February.

In the meantime HzO is continuing to develop strategic partnerships with manufacturers and global distributers “to leverage our ability to get the technology out sooner and onto more markets.” The company is also working on establishing relationships with manufacturers in the medical, military and automotive industry, who are looking to find solutions for their electronics.

“We previously said it would never be available in the aftermarket, but the technology has developed,” Peterson explains. It is now at a point where there is a potential chance that there will soon be a way for consumers, who have a pre-existing phone to get it dressed up in Waterblock. Welcome news for anyone who has ever had to deal with a null warranty thanks to water damage.

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Cristina Q.
28 Feb, 2013 Cristina Q.