Get that smartphone chip out of my wearable!

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The interest surrounding wearables has never been higher. IDC says that over 19 million wearable devices will ship by the end of 2014, a threefold increase over last year’s figure. Wearable shipments will grow by 78.4 percent annually, eventually surpassing the 100 million mark for worldwide shipments in 2018 alone.

IDC also notes that wearables are making significant progress in terms of design, features and functionality, which makes them very appealing to mainstream consumers.

However, there are now several categories of wearables emerging – and many of them are reusing smartphone chips, which creates issues with power consumption and battery life.

Examples of wearable devices

We can categorize wearables into three distinct segments based on the level of user interaction:

  • Fitness wearables and activity trackers: these input wearables are smart, connected sensors that require extremely low amounts of power to operate (e.g. fitness bands, activity trackers etc.). They collect sensor data, then filter and send it to a central hub (e.g. smartphones, tablets, residential gateways, etc.). The hub interprets the data and generates alerts or automatic actions based on the resulting information.
  • Mainstream wearables: output wearables that provide quick and easy access to immediate information at a glance (e.g. smartwatches). This bite-sized information fits on a small screen and is easily made available to the user.
  • High-end wearables: These input/output devices come close to a fully-functional wearable computer (e.g. smart glasses); they processes computer vision and sensory data, providing an augmented reality experience – examples include Google Glass, Vuzix M100 or Epson Moverio BT-200

For more information on existing platforms that use Imagination’s IP for wearable processors, check out my in-depth coverage of the Ingenic Newton and Ineda Dhanush SoCs.

In these articles, I will be focusing on what Imagination is doing to ensure our partners are able to create the next wave of chipsets for every category of wearable devices.

Wearable market requirements

When it comes to creating a new product, Imagination holds a key position in the design chain. Our business model is based around IP licensing so we must design our products based on careful market and consumer research.

Mobile computing - Imagination IP licensing business modelImagination Technologies: a business model based on partnerships

We have a unique product portfolio that includes IP processors optimized for performance, power and area (PPA) efficiency and SoC integration. High-performance, highly-integrated systems have already been very successful in mobile devices; however, optimizing for wearables means focusing on a different set of requirements based on ultra-low power consumption and reduced area.

Wearable - market requirementsMarket requirements for wearables and mobile devices can be quite different

The table below gives you some guidance on how our breadth of processor IP maps to the three wearable categories mentioned above:

01-Wearable SoCs-4Imagination offers a range of products that can address any wearable SoC requirement

This article is part of an on-going series that focuses on what Imagination is doing to ensure our partners are able to create the next wave of chipsets for every category of wearable devices.

Here are a few related posts that describe how companies can combine our hardware and software IP to create truly differentiated wearable devices:

If you want to be in the know on everything related to wearables and Imagination, subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationTech, @PowerVRInsider, @MIPSGuru), Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

Alex Voica

Alex Voica

Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

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