Tag Archives: Enterprise Wearables

Ready to wear sensor hubs

Majeed Ahmad explores the latest sensor hub offerings for wearable devices.  

By Majeed Ahmad

Atmel has beefed up its sensor hub offerings for wearable devices with SAM D20 Cortex M0+ microcontroller core to add more functionality and further lower the power bar for battery-operated devices. The SAM D20 MCUs offer ultra-low power through a patented power-saving technique called “Event System” that allows peripherals to communicate directly with each other without involving the CPU.

Atmel is part of the group of chipmakers that use low-power MCUs for sensor management as opposed to incorporating low-power core within the application processor. According to market research firm IHS Technology, Atmel is the leading sensor hub device supplier with 32 percent market share.

Sensor hubs are semiconductor devices that carry out sensor processing tasks — like sensor fusion and sensor calibration — through an array of software algorithms and subsequently transform sensor data into app-ready information for smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. Sensor hubs combine inputs from multiple sensors and sensor types including motion sensors — such as accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes — and environmental sensors that provide light level, color, temperature, pressure, humidity, and many other inputs.

Atmel has supplied MCU-centric sensor hub solutions for a number of smartphones. Take China’s fourth largest smartphone maker, Coolpad, which has been using Atmel’s low-power MCU to offload sensor management tasks from handset’s main processor. However, while still busy in supplying sensor hub chips for smartphones and tablets, Atmel is looking at the next sensor-laden frontier: wearable devices.

SAM D20 Evaluation Kit

SAM D20 Evaluation Kit

Wearable devices are becoming the epitome of always-on sensor systems as they mirror and enhance cool smartphone apps like location and transport, activity and gesture monitoring, and voice command operation in far more portable manner. At the same time, however, always-on sensor ecosystem within connected wearables requires sensor hubs to interpret and combine multiple types of sensing—motion, sound and face—to enable context, motion and gesture solutions for devices like smartwatch.

Sensor hubs within wearable environment should be able to manage robust context awareness, motion detection, and gesture recognition demands. Wearable application developers are going to write all kinds of apps such as tap-to-walk and optical gesture. And, for sensor hubs, that means a lot more processing work and a requirement for greater accuracy.

So, the low-power demand is crucial in wearable devices given that sensor hubs would have to process a lot more sensor data at a lot lower power budget compared to smartphones and tablets. That’s why Atmel is pushing the power envelope for connected wearables through SAM D20 Cortex M0+ cores that offload the application processor from sensor-related tasks.

LifeQ’s sensor module for connected wearables.

LifeQ’s sensor module for connected wearables

The SAM D20 devices have two software-selectable sleep modes: idle and standby. In idle mode, the CPU is stopped while all other functions can be kept running. In standby mode, all clocks and functions are stopped except those selected to continue running.

Moreover, SAM D20 microcontroller supports SleepWalking, a feature that allows the peripheral to wake up from sleep based on predefined conditions. It allows the CPU to wake up only when needed — for instance, when a threshold is crossed or a result is ready.

The SAM D20 Cortex M0+ core offers the peripheral flexibility through a serial communication module (SERCOM) that is fully software-configurable to handle I2C, USART/UART and SPI communications. Furthermore, it offers memory densities ranging from 16KB to 256KB to give designers the option to determine how much memory they will require in sleep mode to achieve better power efficiency.

Atmel’s sensor hub solutions support Android and Windows operating systems as well as real-time operating system (RTOS) software. The San Jose–based chipmaker has also partnered with sensor fusion software and application providers including Hillcrest Labs and Sensor Platforms. In fact, Hillcrest is providing sensor hub software for China’s Coolpad, which is using Atmel’s low-power MCU for sensor data management.

The company has also signed partnership deals with major sensor manufacturers — including Bosch, Intersil, Kionix, Memsic and Sensirion — to streamline and accelerate design process for OEMs and ensure quick and seamless product integration.


Atmel Sensor Hub Software from Hillcrest Labs


This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Majeed Ahmad is a featured blogger. It first appeared there on February 4, 2015.  Majeed Ahmad is author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future. Majeed has a background in Engineering MS, former EE Times Editor in Chief (Asia), Writer for EC Magazine, Author of SmartPhone, Nokia’s SMART Phone.


Samsung: Wearables will lead to a ‘new era of power dressing’

As 2014 comes to an end, Samsung has shared a set of predictions around wearable technology for year ahead. Following the release of several smartwatches over the past 12 months, the electronics company believes that wearables will make the crossover from the consumer market into the workplace.

(Source: Business Insider)

(Source: Business Insider)

According to the Samsung, wearable technology will not only be the “2015 equivalent of the shoulder pads of the 1980s,” but today’s business leaders will rely heavily on connected devices to “stay always-on,” with the first wave of that change being smartwaches.

The manufacturer delved deep into business attitudes around wearables, which revealed that nearly half (47%) of users felt more intelligent, 61% felt more informed and efficient, and 37% believed that devices adorned to their bodies could potentially assist with career development.

These devices will not only make life easier for employers and their teams, but will improve productivity and streamline business processes. In fact, Samsung expects that:

  1. Wearable technology will create a new era of power dressing for business leaders.
  2. People will restructure their working lives around personal “Power Hours’’ – as technology reveals peak performance times.
  3. Virtual reality technology and the innovative use of displays will lead to a new generation of digital shops, allowing retailers to overcome space constraints and high rent.
  4. Automated home systems will move from ‘geek’ to ‘chic’ driven by a dramatically improved user experience.
  5. Every child born in the next 12 months will learn coding as a core subject alongside numeracy and literacy.

Report: Will the workplace lead wearable tech adoption?

A majority of adults are ready to embrace wearables in their workplace, though the U.S. remains behind in overall wearable adoption, a new survey by Kronos Incorporated has revealed. Currently, nearly three-quarters (73%) of adults believe wearable tech could benefit the workplace in at least one of three major ways: increasing efficiency, productivity, or safety.


As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, researchers expect more than 13 million wearable devices with embedded wireless connectivity to be integrated into wellness plans offered by businesses over the next five years. Meanwhile, analysts also anticipate that the workplace wearables market will reach 455 million devices by 2019, generating $46.5 billion of revenue worldwide.

On a global scale, workers cited smart headphones, smartwatches, and arm or wrist computing devices as the most useful in their workplaces. While 48% of U.S. adults believe that wearable technologies could benefit the workplace, this substantial percentage was the lowest out of all other regions: 96% in Mexico, 94% in China, 91% in India, 72% in Germany, 69% in Australia and France, and 66% in England.

“Countries where adults have adopted wearable technology for personal use appear to use wearables for work-related activities as well, and adoption of wearable technology is higher at work than for personal use across the board,” a statement from Kronos explained.

The poll found that when it came to daily wearable use, Americans were lagging behind with only 13% using a body-adorned devices in their personal lives. On the other end of the spectrum, China was by far the highest ranking region in this regard with just shy of 75% of adults using wearables, followed by India (72%) and Mexico (70%). The survey cited smart headphones and fitness monitors as popular wearable devices with large user disparities across the world. For example, only 5% of U.S. adults use smart headphones, as opposed to 61% of adults in China.


Furthermore, a whopping 82% of adults in India and Mexico, as well as 81% in China, have ever worn technologies like headsets, smart badges and barcode scanners for work-related activities, as have 56%of adults in Germany. However, only 20% of United States, 38 % of England., 43% of Australia, and 45% of France adults have used a wearable device for work-related activities.

While the survey revealed several keys to wearable adoption among employees, one in particular was efficiency. 33% percent of American adults cited this factor as a driver for wearable use, while 62% of Mexican respondents and 45% of Indian respondents agreed.

The survey did shine some positive light on the future of wearable computing in the United States. While only 13% of all U.S. adults claim they use wearable devices in their personal lives, more than 1 in 5 of adult students do. Consistent with that, 72% percent of U.S. students see at least one way wearable technologies could benefit the workplace as opposed to just 48% of overall U.S. adults. Kronos also noted that from a personal perspective, 85% of online students see at least one potential business-related benefit that would make them more likely to use wearable technology for work-related purposes, as opposed to 66% of overall U.S. adults.

So, what’s holding the critical mass of U.S. adults back? According to the report, “While privacy was listed as the top potential concern of U.S. workers, less than half believe privacy could be an issue. Data security was the second-highest ranked concern, but only 35% of U.S. employed adults cite it as a potential issue – suggesting that data and privacy concerns will not be a substantial roadblock if benefits of wearable technologies in the workplace are realized.”

Another positive sign for U.S. adoption is that nearly one-third of employed U.S. adults have no concerns about using wearable technology in the workplace. And, as the the wear-your-own device (WYOD) trend continues to take shape, you can expect Atmel to be smack dab in the middle of revolution, with a comprehensive portfolio of versatile microcontrollers that power a wide range of platforms and devices.

“This survey shows a marked difference in how wearable devices are used and perceived around the world, and people who use new wearable technologies in their personal lives tend to see more potential benefits in the workplace. The more comfortable we become with wearables, the more apt we are to leverage these technologies in the workplace,” concluded Joyce Maroney, Director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos.

Want to learn more? You can access the entire study here. Those interested in an in-depth exploration of computers that you wear for work and play may want to check out this latest white paper.

Smart glasses get smarter with the Myo gesture control armband

Developed by Thalmic Labs, the Myo armband is bringing Minority Report-like technology a step closer to reality. As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, the armband allows a user to interact with a computer through motion commands. Sensors in the device measure the motion and electrical activity of a person’s arm, allowing it to figure out the specific hand gesture someone is making. Most recently, the Canadian startup has announced a number of partnerships with developers and software companies to bring gesture control to smart glasses, too.


The Myo’s gesture control is now going to be compatible with a range of smart glasses, including Google Glass, Recon Jet, and Epson Moverio, with a push towards the enterprise, particularly in the construction, healthcare and active outdoor verticals. “Smart glasses like Google Glass can be extremely useful for many jobs. Doctors, repairmen, even firemen — wherever there’s a profession that sometimes requires crucial information without sitting at a desk or holding a tablet, wearable technology is up to the task,” writes Mashable‘s Pete Pachal.


“We’re big fans of wearable tech of all shapes, sizes, and uses. These new displays have created a need for new interfaces — and that need is an opportunity we’ve seized upon when developing the Myo armband. The wrist and arm are the hot spots for wearables right now, but look out — literally — smart glasses and heads up displays are going to be huge!”  Thalmic Labs’ Alex Kinsella wrote on the company blog.


Using electromyographic (EMG) sensors to recognize electrical signals pulsating through your forearm muscles, Myo can detect detailed data about your arm’s muscle activity. This enables the wearable device to identify whether the wearer’s gestures, whether they’re clenching, flicking, waving their wrist. Thalmic Labs explains that wearers will be able to get rid of remote controls, touch pads, buttons and voice control that might slow down access to information, as well as multi-step processes to either enter or retrieve data. This will be particularly useful in work environments that are noisy or require sterility. As its website states, by integrating the Myo armband, workers will have the ability to stay focused on the task at hand while reliably interacting with smart glasses through simple and natural gestures.

“We’re literally changing the way that we, as people, interact with the digital world around us,” Co-Founder Matthew Bailey tells Forbes.