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Ability to maximize power budget while supporting greater functionality is set to be the key differentiator in wearable technology

Ability to maximize power budget while supporting greater functionality is set to be the key differentiator in wearable technology

There is no question that the potential for wearable devices is huge. Figures produced by CCS Insight estimate that by 2020 there will be 411 million smart wearable devices shipped, with a total value of approximately $34 billion. Among the many areas where it is going to see considerable traction over the next few years will be healthcare and sports performance measurement (fitness trackers for example). The devices developed for both these applications will incorporate sensors for monitoring physical parameters, like temperature, pressure, pulse rate, etc. They will also be able to connect (normally via some type of wireless protocol) with items external hardware (laptops, tablets, etc.) for analysis purposes.

There are 4 fundamental attributes that have been identified which wearable devices need to have if they are going to prove appealing. They are as follows:

  • Breadth of functionality
  • Strong power efficiency levels
  • Compact form factors and lightweight construction (to enhance comfort for the wearer)
  • Cost effectiveness (so that they are competitive with other devices on the market)

The value of a wearable device will be seriously impinged upon if it can only operate for a period of just a few hours before needing to be recharged. For a sports tracker it will be extremely inconvenient for the user and, even worse, in patient monitoring it could mean that critical data is not captured.

As device complexity increases (with more features and functionality being included) battery life will tend to be shortened. Likewise, the smaller the dimensions of the device, the less room there is available for the battery to be housed (thereby reducing its capacity). To combat the effect of these two dynamics and extend battery life, low power architectures need to be implemented.

Satisfying the attributes previously outlined is going to be dependent of the utilisation of highly integrated processing ICs that employ more innovative power topologies. Toshiba’s ApP LiteTM family of application processors (which are based on ARM® Cortex®-M4F cores running at up to 120MHz) make extensive use of power islands. This means that parts of the IC can be powered down when they are not needed.

To learn more about how advanced IC technology is enabling system designs combining functionality, power efficiency and small size, in order meet the needs of wearable devices, click here:

Click here to learn more about how to overcome the next wearables battleground

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