Wearable Devices

Time to Look Smart

| Redakteur: Eilyn Dommel

The smartwatch – The new category of smart devices?
The smartwatch – The new category of smart devices? (Image source: Sharp)

Wearable devices are coming. We take a closer look at this rapidly expanding segment driven by both fashion and technological innovation.

In the days when only a select few owned one, smart-phones were quite a status symbol. Times have changed. Smartphones are everywhere, and budget models can do practically everything that high-end handsets can. A new category of smart device, the smartwatch, is emerging as the next status and fashion symbol. Wearable devices can do almost anything a smartphone can and many things a smartphone can’t, thanks to integrated sensors used for new fitness and health applications.

A laundry list of tech giants have already entered their own product in the smartwatch race. And it’s not only Silicon Valley firms that don’t want to be left behind. Sportswatch manufacturers may have enjoyed a head start, but they are also racing to make smarter devices with connectivity to smartphones and linked applications. Google’s new Android Wear platform emphasizes the momentum behind this trend. And if manufacturers get their way, wristwatches are only the tip of the wearable iceberg. Potential applications include fitness, sports, and medical devices. But no matter which direction this segment develops, the same tight design constraints apply to any wearable device.

A vicious cycle...

In electronics, better performance means consuming more power. More power means bigger components. This is fine for an office PC.

Add a battery-driven power source to the equation, however, and things get more difficult. Because consumers naturally want it all: features, performance, good looks, and a battery that lasts for weeks at a time. At minimum, a watch must be able to make it through a full day of use without needing to recharge. Users expect to see the time of day when they glance at their watches, not a device that has gone to sleep. But keeping a conventional display on all the time would quickly drain a tiny smartwatch battery. Especially considering the brightness required to go head-to-head with the sun for outdoor readability.

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