Wearable technology: a long way from being worn outDr. Suneel Sharma
The wearable hardware and software market has a new strong growth factor for the exploding Internet of Everything (IoE) market. From here we will further move into a highly innovative zone with big developments in wearable technologies.
The wearable technology ‘movement’ is currently dominated by health, fitness and “quantified self” or “digital twin” applications, using fitness bands and trackers for health monitoring and fitness tracking. So far, wearable tech meant just a ‘fitness-band’, but this is going to change as the new hardware and software developments outpace each other. So far, this has been an existing, demand-driven industry where fitness bands got incremental adoptions by inclusion of health statistics, fitness monitoring, and sports performance. These wearable devices with rising demand will get tech boost through developments of sophisticated integrated circuits, equally smart apps connected with mobile phones, and cloud-based analytics. Over the coming years, the combination of all the three trends is going to explode the growth in volume and use of wearables. Innovative companies are going to find many new use cases in personal utility, entertainment, and enterprise applications.
Presently, the form factor is limited to wrist or ankle bands, tee-clips, where a sensor or set of sensors are integrated with the ‘motherboard’ and assembled to a strap to hold close to the body. From bands and clips, the physical augmentation of wearables is going to change with the emerging technologies. The end-use case development on the customised OS with or without display has more recent trends in wearable devices. These include smarter bands with lot many sensors (discussed separately below) and wearable AV glasses, hearables or an easy interacting health monitoring devices and gadgets.
Head-mounted computing devices, smart clothing, industrial segments have opened up requirements for support and service applications that earlier existed only in gaming technologies. Embedded applications in hands-free devices demand applications fully utilising motion tracking and voice recognition. With an array of connected devices as part of the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) wireless connectivity through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are the leading technologies that are powering wearable devices. Cloud and web application development have provided superior analytics-driven services in our smartphones, designed with very different user experiences.
Mobile and app businesses have become efficient in providing seamless mobile app experience of the wearable while reducing costs and security risks. Wearables apps are efficient for displaying real-time parameters, historical trends with remote configuration, and support over-the-air firmware upgrade.
Application Development is mainly through HTML5, Dot Net and Java, with database servers such as SQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL and application servers such as IIS, Tomcat and JBOSS.
The wearables’ design engineers are always on toes to make unique products more fashionable, easier to use, and more ‘invisible’. As the technology jacks up the specifications, new research and development has been applied to superior power management using high-efficiency power supply architecture, sometimes with dual battery solutions. The two important aspects specific to wearables are power optimisation for extended battery life and reduced heat dissipation because of closeness to the skin. Certifications allow manufacturers to circulate industrial products freely within the prescribed market. Health, safety and environmental requirements ensure consumer and workplace safety through applicable certificates like Federal Communications Commission (FCC), European Commission (CE), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Power usage is improving, new functionality in sensors and augmented reality through the multi-sensor integration of various sensors’ categories like Accelerometer, Gyro, Compass, Magnetometer, and Touch. Sensor and third-party module integration have been priorities for scalable implementations using multiple hardware vendors. The important aspects of hardware design are for small-form-factor, multi-board designs, package-on-package (PoP) PCB assembly procedures, High-Density Interconnect technology, and Flex PCB designs.
Software side has its own challenges and solutions through OS framework customisation. Custom iOS and Android apps development, efficient software design and development at Android/Embedded Linux/Windows Embedded Firmware.
Efficient hardware and software integration is implemented through board support packages, device drivers, and firmware development for microcontrollers (MCUs).
Going forward, the wearable hardware and software market has a new strong growth factor for the exploding Internet of Everything (IoE) market. From here we will further move into a highly innovative zone with big developments in wearable technologies. The present devices will evolve further to solve tougher real-world problems not only in the areas of fitness and healthcare but also in entertainment and enterprise solutions.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)