Combination technology driving the future of wearable tech
Wearable technology is often associated with smartwatches and fitness devices, but we are also seeing many emerging markets using wearable technology to gather intelligent insight, including smart apparel, digital healthcare and personal safety.
While consumers are focused on increased convenience and health, industrial applications for smart wearable devices have different drivers. For example, the connected shoe that uses a small cellular solution improves the safety of remote workers. With an integrated GPS device in the sole, these shoes have potentially lifesaving benefits for workers in harsh or difficult environments, as personnel can monitor the location, health and safety of employees working remotely.
The right balance
The growth opportunities in the wearable market bring evolving design challenges to meet the requirements for wearable technology. Devices are expected to be small (in some cases discreet), lightweight and have long battery life – for many, a key factor when choosing a wearable device. In some instances, the technology needs to be robust as well as sensitive to pressure, temperature and humidity.
The great news for application designers is that there are flexible components that enable intelligent design. For example, where a preferred GPS module may be too large to fit into a wearable device, a flexible PCB may solve the size and weight issue. This design feature also has the added benefit of enhancing the performance of the chip by reducing EMI from surrounding components.
The technology behind the device
Combined technology solutions are becoming more prevalent to meet the compact needs of application designers. Technology standards, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, have been combined by manufacturers for some time now to meet the ever-increasing demands and expansion of the wearable market, but they are now going beyond this by mixing other technologies to meet designers' needs.
Airoha, the IoT solutions subsidiary of global technology giant MediaTek, produce a highly integrated chip that includes both dual-mode Bluetooth and GNSS location intelligence, within one compact solution. The Airoha MT2523G can add Bluetooth with location intelligence from an integrated GPS receiver to your design.
Chip-based solutions – System in Package (SiP) and System on Chip (SoC) – are the most effective way of saving board space to either reduce the overall size of the device or provide capacity to add more technology within an existing footprint. The BM-GP-BR-65 from USI, for example, can add Bluetooth low energy functionality in a package that measures just 16.5 x 10.0 x 1.9 mm.
OriginGPS produce some of the smallest GPS and GNSS solutions available in the market today, such as the Nano Spider. These solutions provide superior location intelligence to a design, but still small enough to fit into a smartwatch.
Get more from your design
One common misconception is that a Front End Module (FEM) is only used to extend the range of a wireless solution, but it can also boost the total performance of the chosen SoC. Adding a FEM to a design can lower power consumption, allowing the SoC to operate more efficiently within nominal tasks or boosted to deliver more performance. Increased efficiency reduces power consumption, enabling battery-powered devices to operate for longer on a single charge. As FEMs are multi-chip modules, they can also be used in place of multiple components, reducing the overall BOM and simplifying the design.
We offer a range of FEM’s through our partner Skyworks, which are ideal for such applications, designed with industry-leading power amplifier, low noise and switch functions into single low-cost multi-chip modules.
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