The bandwagon of wearable devices has seen considerable growth in the last few years. Based on the reports of IDC, the wearable industry has seen a massive growth of 31.4 percent just in 2018 itself. The way the market is progressing, it is not hard to assume that wearable devices have a huge role in various industry verticals at different levels.
Wearable devices are split across various industries as well. Most of the usages of wearable devices revolve around infotainment, industrial uses, health, fitness, medical, and military. Hardware design is one aspect that becomes the deciding factor behind the success of a wearable device.
Sometimes the affinity of the users towards choosing a wearable device is first fuelled by the way the product looks. However, there is a lot more to a product than just its looks. One of the key factors that influence the success of a wearable product is hardware design. Various other components also contribute to the success of a wearable device.
Let’s take a little more in-depth view into the components of a successful hardware design.
Important factors that make a wearable device successful
Low Power Design: One of the most important factors to consider while building a wearable device is power consumption. Low power consumption is critical to wearable designs and many designers are moving to low power consumption design that will make the device last longer before each charging cycle.
Wearables in healthcare manage much more complex functions such as calculating SPo2, heart rate, GPS tracking among others, which may consume more battery power. This requires batteries that will last long, but at the same time fit into the form factor that has been decided.
Another key area of focus for low power design can be the chip you want to use. Lower geometry ASICs like 12nm or 7nm can be ideal for wearable devices. In case of custom requirements, companies can also opt for custom ASIC design that will be focused on delivering output according to the custom specifications. Lower geometry design can yield high performance at low power consumption, which can be a huge plus for wearable makers.
Most wearable devices work round the clock, and that affects power consumption. One of the obvious strategies to save battery is for the device to be in sleep mode when not in effective use. The device will go into wake-up mode in case of events or alerts. This strategy is present predominantly in most wearable devices to save power.
Energy Efficient Connectivity Protocols: There are various connectivity protocols that can be used like Bluetooth, ZigBee, Zwave, among others. However, there is a need to have low energy communication protocols, by which you can exchange data without consuming much power. This is very important when it comes to wearable devices. One of the commonly accepted and used connectivity protocols is Bluetooth 4.2. Most wearable devices have Bluetooth LE connectivity.
This is an ideal option when you have to exchange small quantities of data, or just send across operational commands especially in 2.4GHz range. Due to the low energy consumption, it also enables a wider range as it does not require more 3V battery to operate.
Low power consumption enables to reduce the size of battery, along with size and weight of the product. This in turn also reduces the cost. Apart from the advantages a connectivity protocol may have, it also needs to be something that is widely accepted, so that it can connect to other devices easily.
Choosing the right battery: There are various components in a wearable device like microcontrollers and sensors among others. This means that these components require power to perform their tasks. This is where the battery becomes a key factor in hardware design. There are various challenges we may face, as there are certain constraints with wearable devices. First of all, wearable devices need to be small in size and they are also portable. Therefore, we also have to pick a battery according to the form factor.
So keeping the compact nature of the form factor, one of the go-to batteries ideal for wearables is lithium-polymer. They offer great flexibility as they are available in various sizes and they can also be customized. They are also rechargeable which also makes it ideal for wearables.
However, if you choose to go for a custom battery, it also needs to undergo testing and UL certification before it can be used in a device.
Coin cells can be another choice for wearable devices. When you are opting for low power design and a compact form factor, coin cells can also be a formidable choice. However, coin cells are not rechargeable, so they need replacement from time to time. But when they do run out, it is easy to procure them from anywhere. Generally, these batteries should last for at least six months when it undergoes normal usage.
Human Factors Engineering: When it comes to designing a wearable device, a lot of emphasis has to be laid on human factors. There can be different kinds of use-related risks that have to be analyzed before the development process begins. Human factors can include any hazard caused by faults in the device, effect of any kind of radiation emitted by the device, any harm caused to human body, and usability. These are just a few possible factors among many others, which need to be addressed before the development process begins or during its course.
When it comes to human factors engineering, companies should follow regulatory guidelines to avoid any hazards or failures. Wearable companies can also conduct interviews with individuals or groups and try to understand their expectations from a wearable device. Usability tests with users can be conducted in between iterations in order to capture their feedback or interactions and implement changes to improve the product.
Wearable devices are becoming part of many industries and they have evolved from just being a novelty factor or just as infotainment piece. Users demand greater accuracy, usability, and comfort from their wearables and this requires partners who have expertise, experience, and understanding of the industry.
eInfochips has been the backbone of various wearable products in infotainment, industrial, health, fitness, and medical verticals among others. Being a pure-play services company, with over two decades of experience, eInfochips is an ideal one stop-shop for all engineering needs. Along with engineering capabilities, eInfochips also enables faster development by partnering with leading tech innovators through platform specific System-on-Module (SoM), reference kits, cloud platforms, and software tools. Get to know more about our expertise in Hardware Design Services.