Earlier this year, my wife and I drove to Southern California in search of information on the wearable computing market. After stops in Irvine, San Diego, and some play time in La Jolla we returned in time for the CASPA Symposium: “The Wearable Future: Moving Beyond the Hype; the Search for the Holy Grail and Practical Use Cases.” CASPA is the Chinese American Semiconductor Professionals Association and their Spring Symposium was at the Intel HQ Auditorium in Santa Clara with a standing room only crowd.
The big attraction for me was the keynote speaker Dr. Reza Kazerounian, SVP & GM, Microcontroller Business Unit of Atmel. I originally ran across his name during my research for “A Brief History of STmicroelectronics” (the piece I did last week) as he was CEO of ST Americas from 2000 to 2009. It was truly an honor to hear Dr. Reza Kazerounian speak.
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is opening up fresh horizons for a new generation of intelligent systems that leverage contextual computing and sensing platforms, creating new markets. One of these platforms is the wearable category of devices, where the combination of sensors using low-power sensor fusion platforms, and short-range wireless connectivity, are giving rise to a variety of exciting end markets. From self-quantification to a variety of location-based applications, to remote health monitoring, wearables are becoming the harbinger for a whole host of services. With the right set of biometric sensors combined with local fast data analytics, wearables have the potential to revolutionize the health care industry. These devices can provide real-time data and contextual information along with all the health care requirements, improving the quality of care, and lowering the overall cost of care. This discussion will review the underlying technologies needed to make the “always-on health care revolution” happen, and explore how the future of medicine is being shaped by wearable devices.”
Contextual computing is the key term here and, yes, I had to look it up. The application I’m most interested in, besides fitness, is security. I want my smartphone to know it is me holding it by my movements, voice, and usage. I remember back when my credit card kept getting security flagged when I started traveling internationally. Once Visa profiled my usage it never happened again. As the smartphone takes over our financial lives, security will be even more critical, absolutely.
There are three key components to wearable market silicon: Low power, low cost, and low area. Billions of these devices will be deployed over the next 10 years so the market will by far exceed smartphones. The wearable market will be very fragmented which opens up opportunities for entrepreneurs around the world. In fact, Dr. Kazerounian predicted that 15% of those devices will come from companies that are less than 3 years old to which I agree wholeheartedly.
One of the big challenges is low power connectivity. For now these devices will be talking to our smartphones and that means ultra-low power connectivity. Coincidentally, Atmel recently announced a new SmartConnect family that combines Atmel’s ultra-low power MCUs with its wireless solutions and complementary software into a single package:
“Ultra-low power wireless connectivity is critical for embedded applications in the era of the Internet of Things,” said Reza Kazerounian, Sr. Vice President and General Manager, Microcontroller Business Unit, Atmel Corporation. “Atmel’s SmartConnect technology is about simplifying the use of embedded wireless connectivity technologies and enabling users to accelerate their time-to-market. This simplicity allows all players to participate in the IoT market, fueling the innovation needed to accelerate adoption.”