IoT wearables and power electronics

Kevin Parmenter, Power Systems Design Contributor



Kevin Parmenter, Power Systems Design Contributor

If you attended CES 2016, you were told that everything there was the most important thing available in the universe.  Every product introduced collects data about your car, your house, your appliances, your life, your pets, and all the things and people around you and, most importantly, you. A subset of this new existence of the IoT is wearable tech. Reports say that wearable technology will be worth as much as $31.3 Billion US Dollars by 2020. That’s a lot of “wear”. The overall market is supposed do grow at a CAGR of 17.8% between 2016 and 2020.  

The driving factors include consumer preference for sophisticated gadgets, smart watches and the like, for fitness, medical devices, wearable scanners, and computing devices in warehouse, logistics and other operations where operational efficiency is desirable. Consumer wearable devices are used in fitness, sports, entertainment and fashion, to name a few.

These devices won’t be just utilitarian computing and communications devices, they will be fashion and style statements, so expect to see the “celebrities” wearing them soon. It’s no surprise that the usual sports apparel and fitness brands are jumping on this trend fast. The Americas market is forecasted to grow at the highest CAGR for many reasons these include technical innovations, which have lad to the introduction of new products and demands from consumers in medical applications. 

It’s no secret that the US market has the higher incidences of chronic diseases, diabetes and cardiac issues and such so the market is ripe for tele-health & wearable medical sensors.  So what does this mean for power electronics in these applications?

Power management at the chip level and packaging concerns will be paramount. SOC designers will need to consider energy harvesting and sophisticated techniques to achieve high efficiency low power consumption operation.  EDA tools to design these sophisticated applications will be more important than ever. The ability for artificial intelligence and software to sort out useful information from the noise will be huge and this will need efficient power.  Moreover, the communications systems to stay connected with all of these things and store and process the information will need power i.e.  “Big data” if you will. 

Power will be top of mind from the point of use in the wearable all the way to the point where the data is stored and used.  Consumers will want to take these systems everywhere and expect the power to just work and last for months or even years before having to consider the power source.  This is going to be a big challenge for all aspects of power electronics from energy harvesting, components, packaging and magnetics, wireless charging, super capacitors & batteries for storage, efficient processors, SOC’s, and communications chips. 

Not to mention the software to insure data security, running the billing systems to pay for all the fun and protect it all from malfeasant hackers and actuaries will be very important. The future will be interesting indeed.