What makes a wearables product successful? As 2015 draws to a close, this question still remains unanswered for most people. Why is this?
The barriers to entry to build a wearable are relatively low. Microcontrollers and sensors, the building blocks of many wearables, have become cheaper and more widely available than ever before. Crowdfunding websites are full of start-ups with next great wearable products that are often over funded. So why have so many failed to launch? Or why are those that have launched, failed to resonate with customers?
The wearables market is evolving and experiencing growing pains. Customer value is still unclear and this has prevented many wearables to “stick” and then be abandoned rapidly. Wearables offer that ability to totally revolutionize the way we interact and use technology. However, the challenges faced in getting a wearable to market are also forcing an industry transformation. Wearables are pushing design and manufacturing into unchartered territory — miniaturizing design, placing electronic components on plastics and curved surfaces while using conductive adhesives. This design environment is exemplified by the following quotes:
“It’s called hardware for a reason – it’s hard.”
– Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Mosaic and Netscape
“No hardware plan survives contact with a factory.”
– Cyril Ebersweiler, founder of HAX Accelerator
WaRP, a wearable reference platform, was developed by Freescale and partners to help designers overcome these challenges. WaRP shortens time to market by delivering a wearable form-factor platform based on a hybrid architecture with a multimedia applications processor and a microcontroller, to address the varied usage models for the wearables market. The open source design allows developers to take the platform as a starting point and innovate without licensing restrictions.
During the development and manufacturing of WaRP, we faced many of the same issues our customers struggle with:
- Components designed for smart phones are small and low powered but are expensive and have unpredictable short life cycles
- Designing small complex boards can result in expensive manufacturing processes and delays
The future of the wearables market is hard to predict, but constant change and adaption are guaranteed. Evolving with this changing market, Freescale is developing a next generation WaRP 7 which will be based on the i.MX 7Solo applications processor. The WaRP 7 takes the learnings from WaRP and delivers an innovative platform that utilizes the heterogeneous architecture of an ARM Cortex-A7 and a Cortex-M4 core to deliver a high performance, low power architecture specifically designed for wearables.
To help ensure that WaRP 7 will meet wearable development key challenges, and to help ensure low cost component availability and design for manufacturability, Freescale is partnering with Element14 to design, manufacture and support the platform. Element 14’s experience in small form factor design, manufacturing capability and experience in supporting the development community will enable any wearable project to utilize WaRP7 and potentially finally answer the question, what is needed to be successful in the wearables market.
Robert Thompson is Chief Enablement Architect for i.MX applications processors