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ARM: Android Wear and tiny chips pave the way to a wearable future

Says Google's smartwatch-optimised software fixes wearables' problems
Wed Mar 19 2014, 12:58

CHIP DESIGNER ARM believes that the technology industry cannot sit around waiting for battery technology to improve to create compelling wearables, and should instead focus on software and hardware that is optimised for tiny devices.

Speaking at the Wearable Technology Conference in London on Wednesday, ARM CPU division general manager Noel Hurley said that the firm takes a "fairly pessimistic view" of battery technology. "That puts pressure on us to improve the power efficiency of the hardware," he explained.

"Hardware is really expensive to develop. In the wearables market today we're seeing a lot of off-the-shelf components being used to build these systems. The components themselves are not optimised towards this market or this type of use case and we're seeing that in the hardware and the software."

Hurley explained that operating systems designed around the specific purpose of a device will be important for the future of the industry. Presently, he said, operating systems are being used in various devices for which they were not designed.

"In the software field we're seeing off-the-shelf operating systems like RTOS in things like the Pebble and the Fitbit. In the other extreme end we're seeing things like smartwatches taking full Android," he said.

"What the market now needs is an OS that is better suited to the market," he said, noting that Google's Android Wear announcement yesterday was a good example of software focusing on the problems presented by specific use cases.

Hurley said that things are moving quickly on the hardware side of the industry. He cited Freescale, which unveiled its 1.6mm surface area chip that uses ARM technology at Mobile World Congress last month, as an example of potential approaches for the future in both wearable technology and the Internet of Things.

"With the ability to be able to make something that small and that inexpensive, we're starting to run into problems such as how we are going to interact with it, and how we create self-forming networks and self-healing networks... so you don't have a huge manual task of linking these devices together when creating another useful network."

Many large technology firms are pressing forward into both the wearable and Internet of Things industries, with Google in particular now boasting an impressive portfolio that includes Android Wear, Google Glass and the Nest connected home company that it bought earlier this year.

The INQUIRER is running a debate this week on the rise of the Internet of Things that is powering wearable technology development. We'd like to hear your views on whether the Internet of Things will kill privacy, or whether user data collected by smart devices will be adequately protected. You can vote for or against these propositions here. µ


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