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What Are You Wearing?

I've been researching the wearables market for the past two weeks in preparation for ARM Wearables Week (an event at which I'm consulting), and I thought I would share some of the interesting insights I received from some very smart people.

First and foremost, I made the mistake of thinking this is an emerging market, but I was corrected by Shane Walker of IHS, who points out that it's already a $6 billion market this year and is expected to rise to $33 billion by 2019.

The fastest-growing markets, according to Walker, will be infotainment and healthcare. That explains Facebook's acquisition of Oculus Rift and Apple's rolling out its Health platform.

Stacy Wegner, the wearables analyst at Teardown.com, took a look at 23 wearables in the market right now and discovered some emerging hardware trends. First, getting all the sensors, connectivity, battery, and display in such a small form factor (whether on the wrist, head, or chest) requires increasing levels of systems integration — and we are literally seeing incredibly sophisticated systems being worn on one's wrist. Second, and perhaps more crucially, is creating products that consume very little power. Some devices, like the Xiaomi Mi Band (using the ARM Cortex M0+), can run for a year on a coin cell battery.

Of course, high-end watches with touch screens and graphics running quad cores (ARM Cortex-A7) need to be charged every few days. Charging and connecting wearables seems to be emerging as major points of contention with regard to their adoption by users. Adam Traidman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur formerly with Cadence, told me that research he undertook for a startup revealed that most users stop sporting a wearable after four to six weeks. The hassle factor of charging the device is a major disincentive.

This seems like a perfect application for wireless charging, yet Wegner found only one device that used this approach (the Qualcomm Toq). Most of the others had a pesky cradle to lose. You have probably read right here on EE Times about the standards tussle going in on in wireless charging, but is this the only thing holding back widespread adoption?

The newly announced WaRP board (where “WaRP” stands for “Wearable Reference Platform”) from Freescale, shown below, has wireless charging capability on the daughterboard, so this might help speed adoption.

Traidman also cited another major adoption issue, which has nothing to do with technology. This issue is the business model for the devices and how they have to tap into human psychology in order to work. Whenever we expect to see a product succeed just because it's good for you, we will almost always be disappointed. Human nature tends to reward short-term pleasure (yes, I will have that doughnut) over long-term benefits (I will go the gym today), so how does this work in the wearables market? His hypothesis is that wearables will be linked to short-term incentives (you get them for free or even get paid to wear them) coupled with long-term benefits (your health and well-being) that are paid for by your insurance company or employer. This is a radical approach that drags the privacy issue into the light, but that's not an issue I want to address here (unless you do).

Before we get embroiled in the ways wearables aren't working or will invade our privacy, we should look at the good they can bring us in terms of health and safety. I spoke to Zvika Orron from LifeBEAM, an Israeli startup that brings an array of vital signs together in a sensor matrix that has obvious applicability in lifesaving medical applications. As a proof point, the startup has designed a bike helmet as illustrated below.

This helmet is on the market today for $229. It measures your heart rate, calories, and performance, and it provides a good indication of the benefits that might come from wearable devices in the future.

To read the rest of this article, visit EBN sister site EETimes.

13 comments on “What Are You Wearing?

  1. Adeniji Kayode
    November 21, 2014

    The tendencies of wearable smart devices to become more pupular in the coming years is high. First, because of a more convenient way of strapping it to the body Second, a more versatile way by which this technology could be applied. Its becoming history when a person would have to stay long in an hospital, strapped to big machines before vital signs could be taken.

  2. Adeniji Kayode
    November 21, 2014

    I also believe because of the simplicity of operations and portability of these wearable devices, many consumers would not mind having it as a daily companion to monitor their vital signs.

  3. Ashu001
    November 22, 2014

    Adenji,

    A lot of the wearables craze comes down to whether or not this will lead to more Surveillance on Ordinary Consumers (at the hands of the State or the Corporations).

    If this Surveillance State mentality(in place today) ;kicks into High gear there is no hope for the Wearables craze to move beyond just a novelty today.

     

  4. Nemos
    November 23, 2014

    It seems that after a while will be easier and it will cost less to buy technology than to buy food. For the Geek people (as I am) it sounds interesting, but I am a bit worried about it. Maybe I should not, as there are many good opportunities well hidden behind that as to do your own tech company but still it is quite scary as well.

  5. Nemos
    November 23, 2014

    For the moment I am not “wearing much” tech but the tech helmet is seems very attractive as a potential buy although I haven't got used to wear a helmetwhile I am cycling.

  6. SP
    November 24, 2014

    Yes wearables has a quite attractive market. This is something that would have everyone interested in whether young or old. It might become a necessity soon and everyother person wearing them to momitor their vitals. Connecting these data to your nursing team in case of critically ill patients would become a miracle of technology.

  7. Nemos
    November 24, 2014

    Good point @SP , although I'm a little skeptical how “much” independent and resistance the wearable tech could and should be.

  8. Adeniji Kayode
    November 24, 2014

    @Nemos, You may like to get one now because much can be known about you now within the time frame that you cycle

  9. Adeniji Kayode
    November 24, 2014

    @sp, I see a great hope and a wide range of applications for wearable devices ranging from health to military to communications etc

  10. Daniel
    November 24, 2014

    “The fastest-growing markets, according to Walker, will be infotainment and healthcare. That explains Facebook's acquisition of Oculus Rift and Apple's rolling out its Healthplatform.”

    David, there is no doubt that wearable technologies are gaining more momentum in market; especially at various application level in health care domain. I think within a couple of years, it may change the present status of luxurious device to essential and has to be meant for everyone.

  11. Daniel
    November 24, 2014

    ” I see a great hope and a wide range of applications for wearable devices ranging from health to military to communications etc”

    Adeniji, you are right about healthcare sector. But I won't think it can be used in military purpose in its current stage because of various security issues and flaws.  It's still using by the military peoples with some other forms for navigation in remote places and to communicate with nearby transit radio.

  12. t.alex
    November 29, 2014

    Technology is great overall however we rely too much on it. Just eat healthy and try to live a stressfree life we probably won't need a watch to tell us how our heart beat. Everyone nowadays already on their phone and laptop, a lot less interact with each other. I dream off a technology free world.

  13. Adeniji Kayode
    December 13, 2014

    @t.alex, I don't think that is a dream that can come to reality any more. We have people that are being kept alive by technology and our daily lives have been integrated into technology so much that life seems hard without them.

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