The wearable market covers several applications that in essence can be divided into two main tracks: single‑function wearables and smart wearables. The single functional devices are found in fitness bands, action cameras, and personal trackers, while the smart wearables today mainly consist of smart watches and smart eyewear.
Fitness bands & connected watches
Fitness trackers worn on the body count steps, calories burned, heart rates, and more. They have achieved a very high market penetration in the past few years. The reason behind this success is simplicity, low cost, and slim design. Fitness bands and connected watches feature Bluetooth and cellular connectivity and run on very small batteries that typically last for weeks between charging.
The main purpose of sport accessories is to track workout performance accurately and often independently from smartphone connectivity. They connect to the world around us with short range Bluetooth and/or long range LTE cellular connectivity and gather location information via GNSS. These accessories need lower power wireless and positioning solutions to be able to integrate more features within the same power budget (e.g. heart rate) or simply to use a smaller battery to make the product slimmer and cater to the needs of a wider audience (for example, addressing female preferences). However, the accurate performance tracking in these devices takes precedence over low power consumption.
Wearable cameras come in several types: action cameras, such as GoPro that are ready to capture footage of your sports and activities, the new 360 degree or virtual reality cameras that are increasingly being used to provide a real sense of immersive “presence” in professional applications such as TV news gathering as well as for fun, and the body worn cameras used in law enforcement to track interaction between a police officer and a possible felon. These cameras typically run for six hours before they need charging and utilize both wireless (Bluetooth / Wi‑Fi / cellular) connectivity and positioning (GNSS) technology.
These devices typically gather sensor information from a particular part of the body. They store the data locally for a manual data upload at a later stage or they transfer the data either to a smartphone via Bluetooth low energy or a Bluetooth low energy / cellular gateway attached to the wrist. An example of such an accessory would be athletic shoe insoles with sensors to measure the foot contact (pressure, angle, etc.) with the ground. These batteries typically last around three days.
Asset tag trackers
Personal asset trackers are based on Bluetooth low energy, run from a primary cell, can be installed anywhere, and are low priced. Their main purpose is to prevent losing valuables such as keys, wallets, or phones. The devices use the smartphone GNSS to find the last position of a lost device when it is out of range of Bluetooth low energy. For moving targets such as dogs and bikes, they use a function called “crowd‑finding GNSS.” However, this is highly inefficient, as it requires other smartphone owners to have the required application installed on their phone to find the lost asset when coming within the Bluetooth low energy range. Some of these asset tag trackers now add low power cellular technologies to avoid relying on other people’s cell phones, which is particularly valuable when the tracker is not inside a city.
Personal trackers can track the whereabouts of elderly people, children and pets that do not wear smartphones. These devices integrate GNSS and enable their care‑giver, parent or owner to know where they are at all times. The information is transmitted wirelessly via Bluetooth or cellular technologies. As these devices require days of autonomy, they “duty cycle” GNSS, which means that they only turn location awareness on for very few minutes every few hours to get a location update and save on battery life. Their batteries typically last around three days. Also these trackers now add low power cellular technologies to avoid relying on other people’s cell phones, which is particularly valuable when the tracker is not inside a city.
Mobile Personal Emergency Response System (mPERS)
A specific type of personal tracker is the mobile Personal Emergency Response System (mPERS), which has been in use with, for instance, dementia patients. These devices utilize the same technologies as personal trackers, yet may also include Wi‑Fi connectivity. The main purpose of these trackers is to alarm the family or caregiver if the person tracked is outside the zone that is expected, making use of the so‑called geofence. When a device leaves the zone, an alarm is triggered and a location update is sent every second. Thanks to ultra‑low power GNSS, it is possible to track the device continuously with a much longer battery life. Their batteries typically last around three days.
These multi‑purpose connected watches have a hybrid approach as they can act as a phone, email interactivity tool and a watch at the same time as well as measure heart rates, acceleration, and gyroscope information. Due to their many features, they typically are high power consuming and high priced watches. For tracking and connectivity purposes, they would have Bluetooth / GNSS / Cellular / Wi‑Fi technologies embedded.
Wearable tech eyewear includes smart glasses and virtual reality / augmented reality (VR/AR) glasses. These costly high‑end glasses incorporate Bluetooth / GNSS / Cellular / Wi‑Fi technologies and also measure accelerometer and gyroscope information. Their batteries typically last around six hours.
For sport team tracking, one can use intelligent sport’s clothing with sensors that measure heart rate, temperature, performance of the individual team members to optimize the performance of the entire team. This type of clothing typically sends the sensor information via Bluetooth low energy to a smartphone or a Bluetooth / cellular gateway that sends the information onwards to the cloud for data analysis.