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In most people’s minds, the term “wearable” and the technological aspects associated with it, usually refer to devices such as smart watches and wristbands. However, wearable technology goes far beyond this. Wearable devices come in various shapes and forms including activity trackers, sports watches, smart watches, smart glasses, pedometers, health monitors, smart clothing, and so on. Nowadays, wearable technology is being developed and used to change more than just our social habits: it will improve our everyday lives, healthcare and safety.

Wearable systems usually consist of the following main components:

Microcontroller unit (MCU): Selection of the embedded processor is based on the device’s computing and signal processing requirements. ARM® Cortex®-M class microcontrollers are popular in wearable SoC devices as they provide best in class computing performance and energy efficiency. Basic wearables where BOM cost is critical, tend to feature complete System-on Chip (SoC) designs with embedded MCUs such as those provided by Dialog’s DA1468x and DA1469x BLE Smartbond SoCs. Advanced wearables may have a separate microcontroller to offload the processing of sensor data from the main processor. This is required when the wearable has many sensors generating lots of data to be analyzed in real time. Dialog provides a family of BLE SoCs designed to operate in such systems with an external host MCU.

Wireless connectivity: Important for wearable devices as they need to interact with one or more other devices. Depending on the type and features offered, the device may need to support different wireless protocols such us Wi-Fi or Bluetooth low energy (BLE). Typically, a wrist-worn wearable device uses BLE to transfer information collected from its various sensors such as a heart rate monitor (HRM) to an application on a smartphone.

Audio: Audio is a prime feature of many consumer wearable devices. Microphone drivers for voice commands, and high quality audio codecs for wired and true wireless stereo (TWS) music and audio playback. As a leading supplier of high performance, low power audio ICs, Dialog provides a range of audio IC solutions optimized for wearable applications.

Sensors: Today’s wearable devices can include a wide range of sensors. Sports and fitness devices rely on a range of activity monitoring sensors like 3-axis accelerometers to track movement in every direction. Some devices also come with gyroscopes to measure orientation and rotation, and biosensors to monitor biometric data (e.g. HRM modules). Many wearables rely on user interaction via a touch sensitive display. Such UIs are made more user friendly with the addition of Haptics to provide immediate touch sense  feedback.

Other peripherals: GPS functionality features in more and more wearable devices for tracking outdoor activities and sports. Dialog provides low noise GPS power supply ICs (DA9232) to improve GPS sensitivity. NFC capability enables applications such as mobile payment will Haptic drivers provide vibrator / buzzer for notifications.

User interface: Consisting of LCDs, touchpads and mechanical buttons. Dialog’s BLE SoCs provide all the necessary interfacing to drive all the UI requirements from the basic to advance wearable devices.


Wearable Overview

Application MCUs Wireless SoCs PMIC Audio Haptics Wireless charging Power conversion Reference design
Basic wearables DA1469x, DA14682/3, DA9232 DA7218 DA7280, DA7281, DA7282 DA4100/DA2210 iW1700 emWin Reference Design
Advanced wearables DA1469x     DA4100/DA2210 iW1700
basic wearable

Basic wearables

Basic wearables include activity trackers, pedometers, and other simple devices. These have the capability to connect and communicate to a network usually by a BLE connection.

Activity trackers account for the majority of the shipments in the basic wearable category. They lack the advanced features and user interface (UI) found in advanced wearables. As they usually have a simple or even no display, most of the sensor readings are transmitted via BLE to a smartphone for visual representation.

Dialog addresses the basic and advanced wearable markets using a common platform. SmartBond wireless SoCs are at the heart of the system, not only handling wireless communication but also taking care of application tasks such as user interface, operating system, and processing of the fitness algorithms.

In addition, Dialog provides a portfolio of ICs which can be combined to complete your system

adv wearable

Advanced wearables

Besides the function offered by basic wearables, advanced wearable products offer more comprehensive features. Two typical advanced wearables are smart watches and sports watches.

Smart watches can be connected to a smartphone and notify the user about missed calls, messages, and usually email and social media.
High end sport watches are ideal for users who enjoy sporting activities such as running, cycling, swimming or hiking. These devices are equipped with sensors for tracking fitness such as a HRM, as well as GPS functionality.

Due to the complexity of advanced wearables, a separate microcontroller is normally selected to handle application tasks. Dialog addresses the advanced wearable market with a portfolio of ICs which can be combined to complete a customer’s system.

Use case example: Animal Tracker/Location Tracker