Designers of Things — a two-day conference dedicated to the explosive and exciting potential of wearable tech, 3D printing and the Internet of Things — kicked off this morning with a session from Kaivan Karimi. During his presentation, the Atmel VP and GM of Wireless Solutions broke down the evolution of technologies necessary for wearable devices to succeed.
Undoubtedly, wearables have emerged as an extremely hot topic within the technology industry with big name enterprises and small startups alike working endlessly to develop the next high-profile device. Wearables, which are not only being integrated into smart fashion and allowing users to access technology hands-free, are now accelerating the self-quantification movement and paving the way for the upcoming always-on healthcare revolution. Using specific examples from the smartwatch and smart fashion realms, Karimi educated event attendees on the underlying hardware, software, sensing, connectivity, and security technologies needed to make wearables happen, and get them integrated into already existing broader networks.
Karimi began the session by making it clear that wearables are a subset of the IoT, which is the wider umbrella of connected things. When explaining the size of this umbrella, Karimi stated, “The Internet of Things is like sunlight, it covers everything.” He emphasized to attendees that the IoT will go on to impact all aspects of industry and commerce, therefore migrating to devices that collect data: “If you can’t track it, you can’t improve it”.
Despite the fact that it is a mere subset in today’s ever-evolving, constantly-connected world, Karimi stressed that the wearable tech space is not a single entity. “Wearables are not a single segment. There are different categories with different requirements,” he urged. High-end or local processing wearables include smartwatches that run standalone systems such as Android Wear, Tizen for the Gear line of devices and the upcoming Apple Watch. Mid-range wearables are more along the lines of smartphone accessories, which use thin client models and rely on applications on the smartphone. The third category, low-end or limited devices, usually boast no display or feature a limited user interface and act more as a sensor aggregator. This category includes devices such as Fitbit, Polar Loop and other fitness trackers.
“Wearables is one of the edge nodes of the IoT infrastructure,” Karimi continued as he put wearables in perspective of the IoT. Karimi then went on to share several reasons as to why wearables have experienced immediate adoption so far — seamless and ability to integrate into our lives; ease-of-use; inexpensiveness; health and fashion-focused; the potential to save lives; and, the quantified self movement. “The value created by IoT is not just dollars and cents but how we live our lives,” he added.
However, as more devices become connected particularly those adorned to bodies, security and privacy concerns will arise. According to Karimi, this can and will inhibit the growth of wearable tech and IoT as a whole; therefore, how we secure the devices will play an integral role in the development of IoT. “Security and privacy are major growth inhibitors of wearables,” explained Karimi.
Karimi then depicted a time in the relatively near future where hackers could open your doors, access your neighborhood’s streetlights, as well as take control of your toaster oven. Creating the necessary hierarchal gateways to protect access to connected devices and its data will be key in a connected tomorrow. “When it comes to security for the Internet of Things, stakes are much more severe,” he told the Designers of Things audience.
Major advancemetns in technologies like semiconductors are attributed to growth of wearable tech, Karimi revealed. Semiconductors are getting faster, cheaper, smaller and more powerful yet less power consuming, which make them well-suited for smaller devices that need to be on all-day. But one of wearables biggest allies will be contextual computing, which Karimi revealed “will be the driving force behind the next wave of technology.”
The use of big data, sensor fusion, personal history, GPS and social media will also enable computers to know who we are which in turn will let them better serve us. “The future of data analytics will see a shift from reporting to prediction,” Karimi said. “In the future, your devices will know you better than your spouse knows you or you even know yourself.”
Wearables aren’t limited to smartwatches and fitness trackers; in fact, Karimi teased the audience with new form factors coming down the chain. “New form factors are on the way. It’s like pills you take to authenticate yourself,” he noted.
Karimi went on to conclude with a discussion around wearables and IoT in the healthcare setting. “The future of healthcare with wearables is the always-on revolution,” he told attendees. “In order for IoT and wearables to work in healthcare, you have to link the databases.”
So what does the future have in store for wearables? According to Karimi, over the next four to five years, we can expect that wearables will:
- Be here for the long-haul
- Enable a variety of new services
- Allow medicine to become more personalized
- Revolutionize healthcare
- Focus on prevention vs. disease management
According to analysts at ABI Research, over the next five years businesses will integrate into their wellness plans more than 13 million wearable devices with embedded wireless connectivity. Wearable tech also ties into the rapidly evolving Internet of Things, which refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion devices by 2020. The inherent versatility of Atmel’s microcontrollers and radio chips have made our silicon a favorite of Makers and engineers. As allude to in Kaivan Karimi’s presentation, Atmel is smack dab in the middle of the wearable revolution, with a comprehensive portfolio of versatile microcontrollers (MCUs) that power a wide range of platforms and devices.