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Designing for the Wearables Market

With the recent announcement of Apple Watch, we’re seeing a lot more talk about wearable computing. While this is not the market the Critical Link generally focuses on, it’s still pretty interesting from a technology perspective, and I’m always interested in reading about it.

One thing that caught my eye was an article by Raman Sharma on Embedded.com entitled “Winning Design Strategies for the Wearables Market.”

A successful wearable device must deliver the right combination of price, performance, functionality, and battery life, as well as a unique look, feel, and behavior to differentiate itself from its competitors. MCUs, sensors, wireless electronics, and attractive user interfaces must be shoehorned into a small footprint that can be comfortably worn on the wrist or elsewhere on one’s body. Since such form-factor constraints leave little room for a battery, wearable systems must be extremely energy-efficient to achieve the longest possible operating periods between battery replacements or charges..Integrating these diverse elements into a market-winning product requires complex design trade-offs to balance power, performance, functionality, and form factor.  (Source: Embedded.com)

Other than that the form factor of applications that embed our SOMs is not typically that small, and the fact that those designing these apps don’t have to spend quite so much time worrying about how attractive the UI is, these considerations aren’t all that different than those the our customers grapple with.

Raman does point out that the design process for wearables is somewhat different, as the overall user experience (including creating an emotional connection with the product) is more important than the “conventional priorities” – functionality, capabilities – that typically govern embedded systems design.

There are two categories that UI requirements for wearables fall into: “look, feel, features, and functions” and ease of use, with battery life being one of the most important elements. Once defining the user experience has been taken care of, it’s on to creating the use case, covering “the tasks the wearable device is expected to perform.” Then it’s on to figuring out the best set of components to meet the product’s requirements.

As I mentioned, other than leading with the user experience, it’s not that dissimilar from the process that governs design for the types of scientific, medical, transportation, defense, and industrial apps that Critical Link gets involved in.

Interesting, nonetheless.