As the Internet of Things (IoT) expands, so does the value of wearable electronics. Traditionally, these devices have started in the form of a standard wrist watch. Not only could they provide the time, but eventually, they began to offer interaction with the world around the user. Health and fitness was one of the first markets these devices targeted by using accelerometers to analyze a person's movements. This was interesting, but became more valuable and useful as wireless connectivity was added. This enabled connections between a wearable watch and a strap that could be used for heart rate monitoring. This meant a wearable could provide much more insight into the effectiveness of a workout.
With the addition of more connected nodes, these wearable devices really began to enable exciting opportunities! All of a sudden, your watch could tell you when a new plant needed water or if your dog escaped under the fence again. Now, these devices continue to add functionality within the same form factor. By adding Near Field Communication (NFC) or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), wearables could not only connect directly to more complex nodes like a cell phone to leverage increased computing power, but they could now leverage the device's Wi-Fi capabilities to connect to another node anywhere in the world via the Cloud. People could use this capability to connect to other devices, such as a Wi-Fi enabled security system for notifications about a break-in, or to connect with other people via email.
There is no question these wearable platforms can provide value in terms of greater convenience and even increased user productivity, but there are many challenges in developing them. First, these devices generally run on batteries. This battery operation was fine when just keeping track of time, but wireless data transition and more data processing could greatly reduce the life of a battery. The other big development challenge is creating a full-featured electrical design to fit in such a small form factor. After all, you don't have much room to work with when trying to place a small computer on a wrist.
Did you know that ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontrollers can greatly reduce the challenges involved in wearable design? These devices feature integration of analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), segment LCD controllers and more! This means decreased system size and cost, but these optimized peripherals and the microcontroller core itself can greatly reduce power consumption thanks to efficient power management and the use of software-controllable low-power modes. Specifically the CC430 system-on-chips SoCs combine these MSP430 MCUs with a CC110L Sub-1GHz radio to further simplify development and reduce size.
If you are looking to start developing your own wearable electronics, the eZ430-Chronos is the perfect p[lace to start! In minutes you could wirelessly control a presentation on your computer or connect to a chest strap to monitor hear rate. This is basically a wireless development kit in the form of a wrist watch, that provides everything necessary to develop your own wearable application. Get started today for only $58!