Everyone in tech is talking about wearable technology — internet-connected devices that come in the form of a wristband, a watch, a pair of glasses, or even a shirt.
But these types of devices haven’t really caught on with mainstream consumers yet.
Battery life has proven to be one of the biggest problems surrounding most smart watches and wearable displays like Google Glass.
Early reviews of Google Glass, for example, indicated that it could only last for about five hours on a full battery. If you’re frequently recording video with Glass, you’ll probably get even less than that.
One startup, however, is making a big effort to solve this problem. Ineda Systems claims it has created the first chip designed specifically for wearable devices. The low-power processor is designed to extend battery life while also constantly enabling devices to listen up for voice commands — one of the primary ways people interact with devices like Glass.
Ineda’s chip would work as a secondary processor, as MIT Technology Review reports. A main processing unit would carry out most of the device’s functionality. But Ineda’s secondary chip would relieve the main processor of certain burdens, such as detecting spoken commands. This would allow the primary processor to conserve power, therefore offering more battery life.
The company is currently testing two different models of its chip, which it refers to as a wearable processing unit (WPU). These chips are expected to enter production next year, as MIT reports. The more advanced version, which will likely appear in high-end smart watches, will come with three cores, or separate parts for handling different tasks.
One core will be dedicated to monitoring motion sensors to pick up gestures and maintaining a Bluetooth connection with a paired device, such as a smartphone. The second core would handle slightly more complex tasks, such as running apps or playing music. The third would enable the device to handle tasks that require cross-referencing information over the internet.
Experts have acknowledged that today’s generation of wearable devices run on computing components designed for smartphones, which could be part of the reason why things like battery life and design have been an obstacle so far. As more companies like Ineda create chips tailored for use in wearables, we’re likely to see this change.
“We’re expecting so much from these early products in the market when we don’t really have dedicated components to go inside these devices,” Chris Jones, VP, principal analyst for Canalys Insight said to Business Insider in March. “We’re nowhere near seeing the best of what can be developed out there.”
Ineda isn’t the only startup working on components custom made for wearables. MIT also recently reported on a company called mCube, which is creating processors so tiny they could fit inside your shirt with ease.