In tech, there are two ways to become “the next big thing.” The first is the invention that automatically changes everything and instantly becomes ubiquitous – think the first iPhone in 2007. The second is for a type of technology to grow slowly, almost unnoticed, until it reaches a certain point where you realize it is everywhere. That’s what happened with wearable tech. Wearable devices have been around a long time, but the Internet of Things has made their usability even more versatile, and now every company with a credible technology department is trying their hand at this field. How can you increase the likelihood that your unique end-product will surface to the top?
While physical appearance and application diversity meet the first threshold of consumer expectation for wearables, underlying frameworks ultimately create the user experience needed for customer satisfaction. Three fundamental aspects of wearables are platform design, sensor engineering, and connectivity.
Wearables Platform Design
The typical consumer isn’t interested in hardware aspects like power consumption and silicon design, or the underlying software components comprised of security, cloud, and domain-specific applications. They understandably are quick to brush aside the complex algorithms involved and expect seamless integration from the get-go. In this golden age of technology where new devices are marketed as faster and more robust, it’s inevitable that consumers will hold the same expectations for wearables. A developer needs to make sure the frameworks which it utilizes will allow it to meet market expectations.
Some relevant questions to ask when designing platform software frameworks:
1. Which domain(s) is the wearable applicable to?
2. Does it require a simple or complicated operating system?
3. How should it respond in standalone and companion modes?
4. What functionalities should be addressed at the cloud level?
These are a few questions that can help determine levels of integration, consumption requirements, security, design, and expertise needed.
In order for a wearable to be responsive to its environment, it needs an ability to sense nearby devices, machines, and equipments. These sensors are gateways for device interaction as we enter the third wave of computing.
While individual sensors are simple hardware components, their interaction with the environment requires complex algorithms for identification, integration, data processing, aggregation, and more. An ongoing cycle of designing, testing, analyzing, monitoring, and fine-tuning is required to make and not break the digital-physical interaction.
Depending on the complexity of design, there may be a need for cloud integration and computation. Connectivity for wearables, at the very least, should appear smooth with negligible interference. Embedding efficient networking protocols and management systems for short-range and long-range connectivity can address bandwidth requirements; developers should consider a mixed solution of high-level communication protocols from Bluetooth, Wifi, and Zigbee to 3G and 4G LTE for a seamless online experience.
Strategy For Market Domination
Looking for instructions on how to design a wearable for the win? There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Even with highly sophisticated market prediction and analysis tools, it’s hard to determine which type or brand of wearables will dominate the market on software and hardware levels. We have just entered the phase of on-the-go device interactivity, and there’s plenty of room for improvement. Yet in spite of directional unpredictabilities, developers can still realize a highly salable device by fine-tuning their market strategies such as group targeting. Here are two case studies which resulted in winning wearable solutions.
It’s safe to say that smartwatches are likely to circulate in the youth market and young people can adapt to digital platforms with minimal “learning curve.”
Frog Design, a partner of Altran, recently collaborated with the Chinese company Mobvoi to roll out Ticwatch, a smartwatch running on a customized Android Wear system using the Chinese language. The prototype includes popular applications like WeChat, Sogou Maps, Weibo (Twitter), and AutoNavi to increase its salability and popularity among youths. Ticwatch also offers traditional analog design so it matches well with formal gowns and dresses.
Ticwatch is one example where targeting a more focused group with a one-of-a-kind design and popular applications sets it apart from existing competitors. Will the Ticwatch become the next generation’s future hand-me-downs? Only time will tell. But for now, as far as fashion and networking go, you can expect their youth market to respond quite well.
Smart Guard Hat
For industrial applications that value safety first, a wearable can offer unprecedented security, safety regulation, and communication convenience in a non-intrusive way. A leading Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) enlisted Altran’s help in designing a smart hat for these reasons. The end-product was a traditional hard hat capable of sensing the wearer’s vitals like blood pressure and body temperature, environmental hazards like fall detection, radiation, and poor air quality, with emergency functionalities. The smart helmet also transmits real-time data to remote locations where they can be accessed for operational and analytical purposes.
This is a success story where something practical, a traditional construction hat, leverages the Internet of Things to make a vital, responsive wearable; the fact that the smart hat can enhance working conditions with minimal user activity is enough for labor-heavy industries to jump on board.
When it comes to wearables, one thing’s for sure: the time is now ripe to push out your product. Speed up your time-to-market with reputable end-to-end product engineers who can not only help devise a winning marketing strategy but more importantly increase product functionality, enhance performance, and ensure solution delivery.
Altran’s comprehensive wearables product engineering services include technological expertise, innovative partners, and platform software frameworks. Consult our engineering experts for more information.
For a successful product development: establish early and test early so you can improve early.