The wearables market is still in many stages in its infancy, but many manufacturers continue to introduce wearable products to the market. How are component manufacturers involved in the laptop market and what are they currently producing?
The market for wearable devices still feels to be on the rise as mobile devices incorporate more and more sensors. However, despite components reducing footprints and lowering costs, handheld devices remain a somewhat niche market. Part of this is the fact that there has been a relatively slow take-off in demand for personal wearable devices. On the other hand, portable medical devices are on the rise as companies and medical professionals claim the benefits of reliable biometric monitoring.
Why aren’t there more companies dedicated to creating portable medical devices? One reason is that wearable device design, especially for biometric monitors, is inherently difficult. Portable medical device designers need to consider small form factors and light weight, ruggedness, power (both power sources and power-intensive components), connectivity for remote monitoring, and sensor reliability. .
While there are a growing number of contenders in this corner of the laptop market, a trend is forming in which parts manufacturers that produce specific components for mobile phones and portable fields are beginning to create their own end-user products. From a logistical standpoint, this makes sense for a number of reasons, especially if those manufacturers are already producing development platforms and modules that simply need a case to function as a standalone device. They also have exceptional insight into supply chains, market demands, and designs where their own components perform best. After all, many times they have already created a reference design for a product.
So which portable parts manufacturers produce their own portable electronics?
ROHM is a Japanese semiconductor manufacturer that originally started producing resistors (hence the name R-Ohm) but later became semiconductor. Since then, it has become a major player in the semiconductor market. However, with the introduction of its IoT platform, RoKiX, ROHM decided to use its own product and announced the RoKi sensor node in June 2018.
RoKi sensor node. Image used courtesy of ROHM.
This wearable device, similar in appearance to a digital wristwatch, incorporates various sensors, including accelerometers, magnetometers, a gyroscope, a barometer, and a thermometer, with the intention of being a development platform that allows engineers to develop IoT products. faster.
Powered by a Nordic Bluetooth nRF52840 SoC, the RoKi contains a 64MHz 32-bit ARM Cortex microcontroller, 1MB flash memory, and 256KB of RAM. The platform is also designed to be expandable with the ability to be mounted on external projects, as well as a wrist strap specifically designed for use as a portable device.
Omron is another name familiar to engineers in the component industry. They produce parts like switches, connectors, relays, and even sensors. They also participate in applications such as facial recognition for autonomous vehicles. However, most of the world knows Omron for its medical equipment, such as home blood pressure cuffs, scales and more. Not very surprising, then, that Omron decided to put their medical grade components in a proprietary wearable device.
This January, Omron launched what they claim to be the world’s first portable blood pressure monitor, the Omron HeartGuide.
An exploded view of the Heart Guide. Image used courtesy of Omron.
While the device itself is capable of recording blood pressure, sleep patterns, and creating reminders for daily tasks (similar to a smart watch), the primary goal of HeartGuide is to eliminate heart and stroke events using the data collected to inform the user. If your blood pressure goes beyond the specified limits. According to its website, HeartGuide uses an inflatable cuff to take blood pressure readings, and the overall design required more than 80 patents for component miniaturization.
Maxim Integrated is primarily known for its wide range of semiconductor products, including mixed signal and analog devices. Its products range from CAN transceivers, operational amplifiers, and integrated security authenticators. However, many of its products have been specifically geared towards wearable applications and biometric monitoring, such as PMICs, biopotential and bioimpedance sensors, and data converters.
In the past, Maxim has produced portable products using its own parts, both as development platforms and as handheld devices for users. From the hSensor platform, built around the MAXREFDES100 board, to the updated Health Sensor Platform (HSP) 2.0 (which Maxim called the “first wrist-worn platform” for ECG, heart rate, and temperature monitoring), Maxim spent Much of 2018 in Developing solutions for biometric monitoring of wearables.
In June of last year, Maxim launched the MAX-HEALTH-BAND, a heart rate and heart activity monitor that is capable of recording vital signs with great precision.
MAX-HEALTH-BAND. Image used courtesy of Maxim via Digi-Key.
The wearable device is based on several Maxim Integrated products, including the MAX20303 portable power management solution and the MAX86140 optical pulse oximeter and heart rate sensor. The wristband incorporates Bluetooth, so both the algorithmic output and the raw data from the sensor can be transmitted to a smartphone with which custom algorithms can be applied to the data. But Maxim also released another device, the MAX-ECG-MONITOR, which is an evaluation and development platform for designers who want to work with the Maxim MAX30003; A fully integrated ECG IC designed for portable applications.
Wearable devices are continually pushing the need for component miniaturization. Meanwhile, the push for more biometric data collection for preventative health applications is becoming increasingly popular. It is this utility that can lead portable devices from the cool tech realm to become the true staple of the electronics industry.
But will the products of tomorrow be produced by component manufacturers rather than dedicated manufacturers? That’s a question that will be answered for years to come as product manufacturing methods continue to evolve.