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Components for Wearables, Making the IoT Real

Components for Wearables, Making the IoT Real
by Paul McLellan on 12-22-2014 at 4:12 pm

 The screenwriter William Goldman is famous for saying that in Hollywood “Nobody knows anything.” Meaning that there is simply no way for any of the people involved to be able to predict which movies will turn out to be hits and which will be flops. I think the internet of things (IoT) is going to be like that. There will be products that turn out to be big successes and other products that smarter people than me decide to green-light that go nowhere. That is one of the reasons that I don’t think that IoT is a big market for SoC designs, more for microcontrollers and software, at least until it is clear which of the mud thrown against the wall has stuck firmly and so the ROI on doing an SoC is clear.

One aspect of IoT that will be important is programmability. Obviously at the software level but the capability to repurpose the hardware will also be important. One area that is a special challenge is that at least part of the system needs to be “always on” despite the requirements for low power. A device like a fitbit cannot count your steps if it is not awake to count them. But having the primary microprocessor on all the time will blow the power budget. So there needs to be a divide and conquer approach, with an always on extremely low power device that only occasionally wakes up the main processor to handle the data and, perhaps, upload it into the cloud. For example, a step counter may be awake 25 times per second but only give data to the microprocessor to handle step counts every second or two and only power up the network connection even less frequently.

Last week Quicklogic announced the TAG-N wearable sensor hub evaluation kit, in collaboration with Nordic Semiconductor. This incorporates the ArcticLink 3 S2 sensor hub, Quicklogic-developed algorithms and a direct connection to a Nordic Semiconductor nRF51 Dk, their all-in-one multiprotocol development kit for ultra-low power wireless development. This enables system designers to test and develop Bluetooth Smart (what used to be called Bluetooth Low Energy) wearable devices. The sensor hub consumes only 150uW of power while processing pedometer, gesture and context. This is a reference design for wearables suitable for fast prototyping as well as a demonstration of the effectiveness of the algorithms.

Quicklogic will be attending CES in Las Vegas January 6-9th. Their hospitality suite is MP25452, South Hall 2 in the convention center. Meetings are by appointment only. Go here to reserve a time.

They are also participating in a panel – Getting to Low Power and Maximum Functionality through Sensor Fusion Presented by MEMS Industry Group, Room: Marco Polo 702 (Venetian, Level 1) on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Dr. Tim Saxe, QuickLogic’s CTO, will join panelists from InvenSense, Bosch Sensortec, PNI Sensor and STMicroelectronics to discuss how consumer OEMs and embedded systems integrators can take full advantage of MEMS and sensors for wearable devices.

But wait, there’s more. And not steak knives. They will also be at the MEMS Alliance Technology Showcase, booth 72032, Tech West, Sands Expo, Level 2.

More articles by Paul McLellan…

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