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Worldwide Wearables Market Climbs 26.1% in 2Q 2016

Shipments of wearable devices reached 22.5 million in the second quarter of 2016, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Despite a decline in shipments for one of the largest vendors, the overall market for wearable devices grew 26.1% year over year as new use cases are slowly starting to emerge. “Fitness is the low-hanging fruit for wearables,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “However, the market is evolving and we’re starting to see consumers adopt new functionality, such as communication and mobile payments, while enterprises warm to wearables’ productivity potential.” While the overall wearables market grew during 2Q16, its two categories traveled at different speeds and directions. Basic wearables (devices that do not support third party applications) grew 48.8% from 2Q15 levels, while smart wearables (devices that support third party applications) declined 27.2% year over year. “Basic wearables, which include most fitness trackers, have benefited from a combination of factors: a clear value proposition for end-users, an abundant selection of devices from multiple vendors, and affordable price points,” said Ramon Llamas, research manager, Wearables. “Consequently, basic wearables accounted for 82.8% of all wearable devices shipped during the quarter, and more vendors continue to enter this space. The danger, however, is that most devices end up being copycats of others, making it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. “Smart wearables, meanwhile, are still struggling to find their place in the market,” added Llamas. “There is plenty of curiosity about what smart wearables – particularly smartwatches – can do, but they have yet to convince users that...

Designing Wearables that Last: Five Approaches to Conserving and Extending Battery Life

Automatically switching to low-power mode, energy harvesting, low-power display among possible solutions. Short battery life has been repeatedly cited as a big pain point for wearable devices and as a primary reason for their abandonment. Most recently, a survey by J.D. Power found that short battery life is the most common problem consumers have with their smart watch. While the perfect formula to achieve long battery life has yet to be cracked, developers are utilizing various approaches to enable their devices to last longer: • Automatically switching to low-power mode. In this approach, the device identifies events during which the full-power consumption is not required. For example, PetSimple’s pet location tracking device uses proximity Bluetooth tracking to determine when a pet is in a safe area, and in such instances, the device enters a low-power mode where CDMA coverage and GPS tracking are not utilized. In this way, the company is able to offer a device with a battery of one month to three months, which it claims is 10x longer than competing technologies. Low-power components, such as the Wi-Fi chip developed by GainSpan, also fall within this category. Through the implementation of alternative chip architecture and algorithms, the company’s chip requires low power consumption when the device is asleep (260 nA compared to 4 µ required by Texas Instruments’ chip). Moreover, the chip’s ability to “wake up” from sleep mode in a relatively short time also conserves power. • Energy harvesting. Energy harvesting can take place both on the component level and device level. On the component level, battery-less chips and microcontrollers like the ones developed by Psikick...

Philips unveils wearable wireless vitals patch that goes from hospital to home

By Stacy Lawrence Royal Philips has debuted a novel wireless patient monitoring product that it expects will be used to monitor patients in the hospital, as well as after they return home. It’s all part of the bigger picture for the imaging giant, which is working hard to refocus itself entirely on healthcare technology and to shed its lighting businesses. Learn...

FDA clears wireless, vitals monitor patch that transmits to smartphone

By Stacy Lawrence Keeping track of patients once they leave the hospital is no easy task. But that could soon become a whole lot easier. The FDA has cleared HealthPatch MD, a small, wireless biosensor patch worn on the chest that can track a number of vital signs and biometric measurements. The sensor connects to a smartphone to relay data to a healthcare provider. The patch rolls several devices into one, including a heart rate monitor, pedometer, thermometer and fall detector. The FDA cleared the patch to function as a single-lead ECG as well as to monitor heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, skin temperature, steps taken and body posture (including fall detection that rates severity). Learn...

U.K. firms team up to develop mental health-tracking wearable devices

Cambridge Cognition and Ctrl Group have teamed up to develop mental health-focused wearables. The initiative will tap into Cambridge Cognition’s experience making software to test for depression, schizophrenia and dementia in an attempt to bring Fitbit-style monitoring to mental health.

Medical Wearables: Solve the Unique Design Challenges

Building on the success of smartphones and other mobile consumer devices, medical device manufacturers continue to improve on portable and wearable monitoring devices. What does this mean for interconnect designs?