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Get that Smartphone Chip out of my Wearable!

Get that Smartphone Chip out of my Wearable!
by Daniel Nenni on 05-08-2014 at 11:30 am

 Last week, I had the pleasure to present at the Linley Group Mobile Conference. My presentation was part of the Wearable Device Session, which examined wearables from several different angles including software, sensor, processor, and IP.

As the smartphone market is maturing and the pace of innovation generally slowing, there is growing industry innovation and interest in wearables. As an IP company, Imagination Technologies sees a great opportunity in this market, and our CPUs, GPUs, and connectivity technologies are already finding their way into a range of wearable devices.

Wearable devices represent a potentially large market that is still being defined. There will be several different uses for wearables – healthcare, home monitoring, industrial controls and much more. One common theme that came out during this session is that in the future, many of these devices will be running 24/7 on our bodies!

We believe that there are several challenges that must be overcome before the wearables market truly takes off. One of these is power consumption/battery life. While it is acceptable for most consumers to charge their smartphone every day (or even multiple times of day), a true wearable device will need to be able to functions for days, months or even year or longer.

Addressing this challenge and others will force more innovative designs to enter the market, designs that are quite different from today’s smartphone SoCs.

During my talk, I presented two early designs from Imagination’s licensees. Ineda Systems designed a multi-level processor called Dhanush that incorporates unique combinations of Imagination’s MIPS CPUs and highly efficient PowerVR GPUs. The new Ineda wearable processing units (WPUs) represent one of the first SoC architectures built specifically for a new generation of devices including fitness bands, smartwatches and IoT. Its innovative design will allow the Dhanush WPU to break the one day charge cycle – potentially lasting up to a month or more!

The second design I discussed is from Ingenic Semiconductor. Ingenic took a different approach to low power design. By starting with low power architecture and marrying it with low power semiconductor technology, Ingenic designed a highly integrated MIPS-based SoC. By effectively managing power usage, Ingenic is also able to offer SoCs that break the single day charge cycle.

During the panel discussion, it became clear how different wearables are from smartphones. While smartphone designs are primarily focused on function, wearables must focus on different factor: fashion. Wearables by definition will become a visible fashion accessory. And since these devices will often be worn 24 hours a day, we can see that these devices will easily become fashion statements that will define a user’s style.

I foresee companies that have never before been in the business of technology offering fashionable wearables that combine everyday function with form. Will wearables convert techy nerds into fashion icons? I can’t wait to see how this story turns out!

By John Min, Director of Solutions Engineering, Imagination Technologies

About Imagination Technologies

Imagination is a global technology leader whose products touch the lives of billions of people throughout the world. The company’s broad range of silicon IP (intellectual property) includes the key multimedia, communications and general purpose processors needed to create the SoCs (Systems on Chips) that power all mobile, consumer, automotive, enterprise, infrastructure, IoT and embedded electronics. These are complemented by its unique software and cloud IP and system solution focus, enabling its licensees and partners get to market quickly by creating and leveraging highly differentiated SoC platforms. Imagination’s licensees include many of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers, network operators and OEMs/ODMs who are creating some of the world’s most iconic and disruptive products. See: www.imgtec.com. Follow Imagination on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, RSS, Facebook and Blog.

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