Wearable Devices: A Limitless Future

What engineering teams can learn from Dr. Who’s time machine.


Today, there are many wearable systems across industries including medical and health care, safety, smartwatches, smart goggles and glasses, smart shoes and clothing — even smart pet trackers! So why is there such a proliferation of devices, even though many of these portable/embedded devices have been around for decades?

There are a few key technical trends enabling these devices.

First, the connectivity infrastructure is ubiquitous. Seemingly, everything can connect to another device, connect to an infrastructure, or to the Cloud, and as a result provide a wide range of benefits to the user (which reminds me, I should check my phone to see if my Toyota RAV4 EV has completed charging).

Second, semiconductor processes have enabled tremendous miniaturization. Processor architectures have allowed the creation of power-efficient System-on-Chip (SoC) architectures.

Third, the semiconductor manufacturers themselves are building SoCs specifically focused on the wearables market with a keen focus on power consumption, graphics, and the ability for these devices to pack an abundance of functionality into a very small form factor (think: TARDIS).

To take advantage of the hardware advances, the software infrastructure is also evolving quickly to support wearables. Real-time operating systems (RTOSes) that provide high performance, extreme scalability, and minimal footprint are a good fit for wearables. However, the RTOS also must include features that meet the requirements of today’s wearables. Such functionality includes a power management framework that addresses not only the core processor(s), but also the I/O and other devices, along with the operational dependencies between them. Also required is the capability to dynamically load and unload applications depending on what the user is doing with the device, again as in a TARDIS.

Finally, a breadth of physical connectivity options such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and protocols to enable communications is needed. A modern RTOS such as the Nucleus RTOS from Mentor Graphics satisfies all of these requirements.

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Mentor Graphics has created a three-part white paper series on wearables. The first paper focuses on wearable segments already showing promise and how semiconductor companies are bringing innovative solutions to the table.

To read this paper, click here.

Indeed, many of these wearable segments are expanding quickly. Segment growth is driven by business need and enabled from recent technical advances in hardware, software, and infrastructure. One can only imagine what the subsequent years will bring in terms of business transformation and overall improvement of quality of life for all of us.