Last week I attended ARM TechCon in Santa Clara and one of the topics covered sparked my interest for this blog – wearables.
Did you know that Wearable Technology represents the fastest growing device segment currently expected to grow by 400+% from now until 2017. What makes wearables interesting for me is the incredibly broad range of applications from professional safety equipment, through sports, health and medical applications through to keeping track of your pets and kids. Last year Microchip wrote a blog about how wearable technology is nothing new, but that it has become a lot more fashionable than the pocket protectors of the 1980's!
The good news is that ARM is already in most wearables in operation today and these represent a very broad range of hardware configurations from RTOS to richOS, from no display to full 3D graphics, with video capture and playback and security. I believe that ARM has the products to suit most if not every requirement with every potential to keep on doing so.
Why am I so sure? Many early high-end wearable designs are based on mobile phone designs with Cortex-A and Mali and are in active use today, albeit with a bit of re-shaping to enable fitting into a tighter PPA budget. Recent research has shown that users reach for their mobile phone over 150 times a day so it’s no wonder why we’re seeing more and more watch based wearables being introduced to make checking e-mail and messages at a glance simply that.
One of the other major use cases for wearable technology is health and fitness tracking. In fact, a recent ‘Forrester Research survey conducted early this year determined that 6% of US adults already wear a gadget to track performance in a sport ARM continued its tradition of the Wearable Fitness Step Challenge, tracking the steps made by exhibitors over the course of the few days. As always it drew a lot of attention and some friendly competitive spirit between participants, with Alec Bath from STMicroelectronics walking away with the grand prize after some stiff competition from Qualcomm and Xilinx!
The System IP glue for this type of wearable features interconnects such as NIC-400 which with its high level of configurability and scalability, GIC-400 for interrupt management and TZC-400 and DMC-400 or similar for secure management of external memory.
On the subject of PPA, as devices scale so do their power requirements and hence their required recharge intervals. We’re all used to charging our high-end mobile phones once a day, and there is an unwritten expectation that a watch form factor device using say 10x less energy should only need charging say once a week. Health and fitness monitors at the simpler end of the scale with say half the energy usage again as our watch have an expectation of only needing a charge once a month.
Compounded by time to market pressure and the broad market requirements, it goes without saying then that ARM partners designing high end wearables SoC designs would greatly benefit from automated design environments to reduce their development times from months to weeks if not days. Such environment would bring together CPU, GPU and System IP including Debug and Trace capabilities in the most efficient way that still leverages existing tools and software.
The second bit of good news is that ARM is also investing in such technology in the form of its Socrates™ Design Environment which enables rapid right first time IP integration of the front end design with more to be announced in the coming months. This complements existing ARM Fast Models for earlier software development, but that’s another blog for another day.
William Orme at TechCon this week putting Socrates DE through its paces in showing how rapidly a
CoreSight Debug and trace environment can be configured and integrated into a larger collection of IP
including CPU and interconnect.
Okay so I touched on high end wearables, but what about the basic variety that also needs to play in the IoT space? There’s not only the TTM pressure here but also a need for a common foundation of provisioning support to network into the cloud. I’ll leave you with the ‘ARM mbed IoT Device Platform’, probably one of the busiest corners of the TechCon Expo floor this week– and not just because of the free beer after 16:00 or coffee being dispensed by the now infamous IoT enabled Nespresso machine:
I for one am very excited about what the future has in store for wearables, devices that are capable of being made right now with existing ARM Cortex, Mali, CoreLink and CoreSight technology, and are only bounded by the imagination of the ARM partnership or the wider maker community.
Let me know what you think about the upcoming future for wearables in the comments section below.