Tag: wearables

Samsung sings of new wearables chip

Samsung-SSD-ActivatedSamsung has told the world that it will start selling a new chip aimed at health focused wearable products.

The new chip can take multiple measurements and tell you your body fat, skin temperature and heart rate and process the information it collects.

To help clients accelerate product development using the chip, the firm said it has developed “reference platform” products such as a wrist band to demonstrate the chip’s capabilities.

Wearables are expected to be a hot ticket for tech companies, although smartwatches are proving a little slow to take off.

It is thought that health related features including data collection and monitoring are the “way forward”.

Some firms are seeking to launch sophisticated products capable of detecting and monitoring more serious diseases to tap in to a market that Soreon Research says could be worth more than $41 billion in 2020.

Samsung began mass production of the new chips in December. It said the processor will power a new device to be launched in the first half of 2016, but declined to elaborate on the maker of the device.

Smartphone payments soar

HTC smartphoneIndustry analyst company Gartner said it believed that by 2018 half of the population in Japan, the USA and some Western European countries will use smartphones or wearables to pay for their stuff.

The development of apps, devices and mobile services are changing traditional models, according to principal research analyst Amanda Sabia.

“Product managers must understand who their customers are for these new devices and services, and how the products are being used. Knowing your customer is imperative in order to capture a fair share of spending opportunities in this dynamic marketplace,” she said.

She said there are three types of mobile payments – by smartphones, by branded mobile wallets and mobile vendors from High Street shops like Starbucks.

But mobile payments using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology will be limited because theres a lack of agreement between shops and financial organisations.

Sabia also said that by 2018, in mature markets, 75 percent of TV content will be watched through application based services, rather than using pay TV models

Rich people are using more devices

Windows 10People in mature markets who can afford it are likely to own three to four devices by 2018, according to a Gartner survey.

In 2016, the market research company said, the installed base of devices will amount to 7.8 billion units, whether they be wearables, phones, tablets or PCs. Gartner estimates that figure will rise to 8.3 billion units the following year.

Breaking it down, Gartner thinks that over 740 million wearables will be in use next year, uup 20 percent from 2015. And some of these will record heart rates, blood pressure, sleep patterns and steps strode. There will be applications that will register emotions with corporations auto-analysing voices.

And with its crystal ball firmly in front of it, Gartner said by 2019 a third of people using PCs will use speech or gestures to work their machines.

In that year, 60 percent of the total PC installed base will be using Windows 10 and Gartner expects many of them to use a combination of gesture and voice.

Virtual reality market to bloom

old-school-tvWhile virtual reality (VR) has been around for some two decades, it’s only recently began to take off.

And that will soon create really serious money, according to market research firm Trendforce.

In a report, it said the total value of VR – including hardware and software – will be worth $70 billion in 2020. Next year it will only be worth $6.7 billion.

The reason, according to Jason Tsai, a Trendforce analyst, is because people continue to seek more audiovisual experiences.

He said that outfits like Facebook and YouTube will provide software tools and support services to make VR videos/

He said the development of VR is not necessarily based on wearable devices made by the likes of Sony. He said much of the growth will come from independent vendors.

Wearable market blossoms

Apple WatchThe relatively new “wearables” sector blossomed in the third quarter, with shipments up 197.6 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

IDC said that Xiaomi and XTC look like they will be strong contenders in the sector, in which IDC includes both basic wearable devices and so-called “smart” devices, like the Apple watch.

Chinese vendors in general appear to have leaped onto the wearable bandwagon, said Ramon Llamas, research manager at IDC.

“China has quickly emerged as the fastest growing wearables market, attracting companies eager to compete on price and feature sets.”

Shipment volumes for both basic fitness tracking and more sophisticated gadgets have both increased.

IDC said there’s a bifurcation not only in features but in pricee too, with smart watches costing over $400 and basic unites at $95 or so.

Fitbit is the king of the wearables castle, while Xiaomi’s cheap Mi Band selling over 97 percent of volumes in its home market.

Apple Watch fails to boost wearable demand

WatchA report said that vendors making wearable devices haven’t experienced the boom they had hoped for.

Trendforce said global devices in 2015 will be about 68.1 million units. Growth will rise 64 percent to 122 million units next year.

Analyst Jason Tsai said that Apple Watch hasn’t significantly lifted demand for smartwatches. “Smart bracelets remain dominant in the wearables market. The industry is betting on wearable virtual reality (VR) technologies to be the main growth driver for next year.”

Smartphone vendors, he said, have only been able to use branding to sell their machines. “The market positioning of smartwatches is still unclear and provides too few reasons for people to buy them.”

The Apple watch has sold more than 10 million sets since it was launched earlier in the year. But Tsai said that sales fell short of expectations.

He described Apple watches as “collectibles for Apple fans”.

Human magnetic field offers communication hope

Human magnetic field demoResearchers at the University of California San Diego believe they have hit on a method using the human body to allow communication between different wearable devices.

The electrical engineers showed off a wireless communication method that sends magnetic signals through the body which offers a better method of communicating than, for example, Bluetooth.

A demonstration at a conference in Italy showed a “proof of concept” method that they believe could be developed into an ultra low power wireless system to transmit data.

Patrick Mercier, a professor at the university, said: “In the future, people are going to be wearing more electronics, such as smart watches, fitness trackers and health monitors. Currently these devices transmit information using Bluetooth radios, which use a lot of power to communicate.”

He said that Bluetooth uses electromagnetic radiation to transmit data but radio signals are partly blocked by the body and so need extra power.

The demonstration used a technique the boffins call magnetic field human body communication, which isn’t blocked by human tissues meaning that less power consumption is needed and data loss is far, far lower than Bluetooth.

If the method is successfully turned from proof of concept to commercial reality, it means longer battery life for wearable devices.

The engineers were quick to point out the technique doesn’t pose any serious health risks because the signals are far lower than MRI scanners, for example, or wireless implant devices.

The illustration shows the prototype developed by the engineers with magnetic field generating coils on three parts of a body including the head, an arm and a leg.

Pentagon contemplates wearables in war

US Army - Wikimedia CommonsThe US Defense Secretary said today that the Pentagon is cooperating with Boeing, Apple, and other companies and organisations in a bid to apply wearable tech to war.

According to Reuters, the aims are to create leading edge sensors that can be worn by USAF personnel or built into the exastructure of a plane.

The report said the idea is to use next generation printing tech to make stretchable electronic devices tat can be worn by ground troops and naval personnel too.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the US government will pump $75 million into the plans over the next five years and commercial companies will throw in $90 million and other government authorities creating a honey pot of $171 million.

US universities will also work on the scheme with a hub based in San Jose.

The US government has already pumped money into futuristic 3D printing schemes.

Wearable market sees Apple soar

Apple watchAfter coming from nowhere earlier this year Apple has found itself second in the wearables market, according to IDC second quarter figures worldwide.

The leader in the market is Fitbit, but that company shipped 4.4 million units in Q2 while Apple managed to ship 3.6 million units.

Volumes for the second quarter amounted to 18.1 million units, up 223.2 percent from the same quarter last year.

Analyst Ramon Llamas at IDC said that Apple’s arrival in the market drove total volumes higher and its rise from nowhere will cause other vendors to look again at their products.

“Fairly or not, Apple will become the stick against which other wearables are measured, and competing vendors need to stay current or ahead of Apple,” he said. He also predicts Apple may well launch smart glasses or even “hearables”.

The top five vendors are now Fitbit, Apple, Xiaomi, Garmin and Samsung with market shares of 24.3%, 19.9%, 17.1%, 3.9%, 3.3% respectively. “Others” have 31.5 percent of the total market.

Your skin could be your next interface

humans-channel4-amc-sci-fi-tv-seriesWhile everyone is touting wearables as the next big thing researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Saarland University and Carnegie Mellon University are developing a different type of wearable that actually sticks to your skin.

Dubbed iSkin, the silicone rubber-based product is loaded with pressure-sensitive sensors, can made into limitless sizes/shapes and safely adheres to your body.

iSkin can be stuck to your forearm, wrapped around your finger, or even attached to your ear.

According to the researchers, iSkin supports single or multiple touch areas of custom shape and arrangement, as well as more complex widgets, such as sliders and click wheels.

“Recognizing the social importance of skin, we show visual design patterns to customize functional touch sensors and allow for a visually aesthetic appearance. Taken together, these contributions enable new types of on-body devices,” their report said.

The researchers see iSkin being used to control smartphone and smartwatch functions like a stopwatch during sports activities, adjusting music playback and volume, and answering phone calls.

They have developed a prototype rollup 30-key QWERTY keyboard than can wrap around your forearm and attach to a smartwatch

The sensors are constructed using several layers of silicon. Non-conductive parts of the iSkin are built using transparent polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), while conductors are made with carbon dope PDMS. These materials allow iSkin to be very flexible and stretchable (tests showed that the sensors could be stretched by up to 30 percent with no ill effects).

Perhaps what is technologically significant, is that they have also worked out a way of removing iSkin without ripping out your arm hair at the same time.

iSkin was first developed to give robots a “touch” sensation similar to that of humans. But now, that same methodology is allowing humans to become even more interfaced with our devices.