Where are wearables heading?

We’re at the start of a wearable electronics revolution that will bring new meaning to personal connectivity. We’re going to be sharing more information with friends, with medical professionals, and perhaps even with our personal fitness coaches. Some experts predict a market of 230 million wearable computing devices will be sold every year by 2019.

Wearables will integrate a growing number of sensors including biosensors, environmental and motion sensors, and microphones. The data gathered will enable wearables to become more accurate and more context sensitive. They’ll deliver only relevant data, where and when it’s needed.

Security will be critical to ensure that only the data you want to share is shared. Much of this data may be sent to cloud infrastructures via smartphones or other wireless links, where it can be analysed.

Some wearables will be multi-purpose access devices, automatically opening doors and logging you into systems. Others will be able to control your environment and monitor your health and fitness.

With battery lifetimes being a powerful driver of consumer preference, achieving low power consumption will be a critical focus for wearables designers. This effort needs to extend to sensors, system and communications hardware, and the software.

The Holy Grail is the wearable that monitors you continuously, a wearable you never remove. This could be made possible through wireless charging or powering the device using energy harvesting. Of course, such a wearable should be as small and light as possible too.

Integrated semiconductor devices – Systems-on-Chip (SoC) – will be at the heart of successful wearables. One of the most recent examples is Dialog Semiconductor’s DA14680 Bluetooth Smart (v4.2) SoC. This tiny, ultra-low power integrated circuit features flexible processing power, built in flash memory, circuits for sensor control, analog and digital peripherals optimized for wearable products, and an advanced power management unit. It eliminates a lot of external components from wearable product design, enabling smaller form factors, lower system cost and extremely frugal power consumption. In fact, it’s effectively a ‘Wearable-on-Chip’. Designers just add sensors, a power source, packaging, and creativity.

By Mark Murphy, business unit manager Bluetooth Smart at Dialog Semiconductor

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