Wearable device technology is picking up at a very high pace. See how many products/ICs are getting launched every year.
Low Power MCUs, highly integrated PMICs, ultra low power load switches, Power convertor, there is race of launching best products for wearables and battery powered devices.
Let us try to start with the basics.
What is a wearable device?
Wearable device is nothing but a smart electronic device which is worm by a user(mostly humans, sometimes animals).
Example of wearable device
There are various wearable devices available in the market like smart watches, fitness bands, intelligent ring, smart glasses, headsets, etc. You must already be using some of them in your daily routine.
Main challenges when building a wearable device
There are various challenges, engineers face when designing a wearable device as there are many constraints with a wearable device:
1. Power Consumption
As the device is battery powered, engineers need to make sure it consumes the least possible power and provides long enough battery backup time.
It will be very inconvenient to keep charging your device for use, it may lead to less adaption in the market.
If there will be a need to charge the device quite often, it may lead to less adoption. Have you seen people buying fitness bands, watches but most people leave using them after a week or so?
Is it because now they got two device to take care of charging, one was their phone and now watch also?
In order to solves this charging issue, energy harvesting is getting introduced in various products wherever it is feasible.
I wrote a detailed article on how to optimize your embedded design for power consumption both from hardware as well as from firmware point of view.
2. Device Size
Wearable device’s size is another major concern.
User likes to have a small device to wear and not a bulky device else it will be very inconvenient.
Developer find it very challenging to work on chip-scale IC packages, sometimes only available to big companies/big volumes.
During R&D phase working with such a small components package is extremely challenging while debugging, you barely get any space to access test point or IC pins.
For this reason only, many developers first design the board with bigger package components and once the design is finalized, they build the design using use the smaller package.
3. Thermal Performance / Heat Dissipation
If your wearable devices consumes some considerable amount of power, heating is also a challenge as you are squeezing every mm you have and the space for heat dissipation is almost not there.
On the other hand if your wearable device heats up user would not like to use it for long.
4. Access to Latest Technology
If you are small company or starting up, it will be difficult to convince big companies that you are worth getting their latest technology chips/displays 🙂
So many manufacturers don’t talk to small companies as they can’t support smaller requirements or they are unsure of if they will get enough business after they have given the support or not.
In many countries importing batteries is a challenge. You will need to fulfill local govt’s compliance requirements. There might be restrictions on a few latest battery technology in import.
6. RF Performance
Due to space constraint every component on a wearable device will be very very close, their is greater chance of cross talk, EMI issues. RF design becomes challenging.
Antennas will be less efficient, a very careful design will be a must.
7. Compromised design
On top of all, due to currently ongoing chip-shortage, the initial iterations of design may be a compromised design. Developers may need to design using what is available not with what could be the best for the product.
What do you think about other challenges?
Are you building a wearable or a battery power embedded device, let me know, would love to connect with you.
I hope you have found this information useful.
You can read my other interesting blogs & articles on embedded system design here.
I help embedded engineers and start ups build reliable and successful embedded products. If you need any help please let me know here.
Happy Learning to you!