Innovating for success with the mbed Wearable Reference Design

The mbed partnership is bringing together key tools that will allow a quicker route to differentiated products that can successfully drive great user experiences/ succeed in the market

A few years ago, we set out to explore new concepts and technologies around wearable devices that could contribute to the internet of things. We took our first working prototype and showed it running mbed OS and connecting it to cloud services at Dreamforce 2015 and several of you got to see it in full action at ARM TechCon 2015.

We gained first hand experience of the realities of building complete and complex physical products and understand the challenges one must consider. Then, we set ourselves some stretch goals: that it would last months on a battery, connect and interact with all your devices seamlessly and enable new forms of trusted interactions. Today, the mbed partnership has openly offered the software, electronic and mechanical design resources to the mbed developer community in form of the mbed Wearable Reference Design.

Design for a market of huge growth

In a report from earlier this week from Research and Markets, wearable devices with embedded sensors to monitor bodily activities - blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate, is driving the healthcare industry through remote data access.

Global Wearable sensors market is estimated to be worth USD 4.71 billion in 2015, and is expected to record a CAGR growth of 25.7% during the period of 2015-2020.

However, those watching the market growth keenly, are concerned about the need for differentiated products that would define the success of next generation user experience. Even WIRED commented in their 2016 CES coverage _“HERE’S A HANDY tip for following the wearables trend in 2016: just assume every company on the planet is making one. Most will be identical in every way, shape, and form.” _The resources made available here are aimed at unlocking this potential for faster differentiation in products and applications.

mbed partnership’s tools for innovation

So, let’s take a closer look at the mbed Wearable Reference Design resources


**Mechanical **– Component files, manufacturing documentation and any design files to make the product. You can use these files to replicate our device design, or as a starting point for modification into the form factor that suits your product. The flexibility of the software and electronics resources means that you can have a wildly different mechanical design for your product.


**Electrical **- The watch includes four boards; the main board is the most complex design in the mbed Wearable Reference Design and is manufactured using rigid-flex technology. It contains an ARM Cortex®-M3 processor, various radio communication interfaces and a number of sensors.

This can be customized through the choice of features by enabling or disabling the components. This added flexibility means you can create multiple different products using the same design.


**Software **– The software is a collection of mbed yotta modules. As you already may be familiar in mbed OS 15.11, yotta modules are single function, but can be used in combination to build new wearables from scratch by combining supported components and peripherals. This allows the to rapidly prototype new hardware peripherals by changing a single line in a JSON file!

Offer outstanding battery life

Battery life remains one of the biggest customer pain points for wearables, particularly around smart watches. We set out to build an extremely power-efficient design, offering a battery life in months. mbed’s Zach Shelby is still running his at 11 weeks as he headed to Embedded World 2016! If you are at the show, don’t miss out – go find out his current battery life at Hall 5, Booth 335. As is usual, battery life depends on MCU peripheral usage and careful management of software resources – hence, can allow significant energy savings when the peripherals are changed.

Wireframes, meet wearables

Successful product campaigns launch these days with their software ecosystems at the same time as software applications and UX bring out the value of the sensors for the consumer. To support this, mbed partners Silicon Labs has announced their Thunderboard Wear.

Drive disruptive experiences

The wearable market is driven due to the rising awareness of health and fitness, where sensor tracking and fusion play a major role. The wearable-as-notification-machine idea is one of the most popular use case for sensor fusion applied to healthcare across the mass market. This is where the combination of different capabilities can be a very powerful tool.

Amongst the software libraries, you will find example applications for basic functionality and continue to work with our partners to offer technology demonstrators that will open up new pathways to innovative products. Take for example, Myotest who brings specialist expertise in sport science and biomechanics bridging raw sensor signal processing to extract meaningful insights.

Myotest’s renowned step analysis library is bundled into the watch-demo libraries. Using accelerometer signal the library is able, amongst other things, to reliably count steps and automatically differentiate between walking and running. This solution can be easily integrated into fitness devices. The example application is just a start, building on the automatic run detection Myotest offers new running measurement standards to the market and compelling features for end users.

Consider through more accurate motion sensing and tracking, more sophisticated capabilities such as fall detection and alarm triggering can be actioned. This can be applied to a number of target audiences – to protect the aged from incidents; for remote employee safety monitoring; etc. The possibilities are outstanding!


So, what will you design and disrupt? We’d love to hear about how you plan to use the mbed Wearable Reference Design.

Bee Hayes-Thakore is an engineer by background and looks after marketing programs at ARM mbed

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