Episode 7: Smart things conquer the market: Bring your smartwatch and wristband device to the next level

We live in a world, where technology shapes almost every aspect of our daily life. In 2030, it is predicted that around 50 billion devices will be connected to the IoT, most of which will be owned by private users. One area that particularly fascinates consumers are “smart things” - devices like smart speakers, mobile devices, home entertainment devices but also wearables – as they increasingly help to make life consistently easier and more convenient. And they are particularly fascinated by the existing but also upcoming new use-cases and the possibilities provided. In this new episode, we talk with Verena Lackner and Marcel Konstantinov about smart things, how they conquer the market and how microelectronics turn devices into voice-operated assistants, digital wallets and health tracker.

If you want more information about wearables, click here.

Transcript

Guests: Verena Lackner, Marcel Konstantinov
Date of publication: 27 July 2021

Moderator:

The potential of the Internet of Things is well known. But how do we actually implement it? How can people and companies benefit from it? In this podcast, I meet with experts from infineon, partners and customers who tell me how it can work and what it takes to Make IoT work.
My name is Thomas Reinhardt, I am your host, and I am excited to bring this podcast to all of you.

Today’s ever-connected consumers want one thing above all – convenience! In other words: easy and intuitive ways to tune into the entertaining and useful information they love and need – without switching between different devices or screens. The answer is surprisingly simple: wearables. Smart things such as smartwatches, sports watches, fitness trackers and healthcare wristbands can be comfortably and discreetly worn on the body. But for today’s wearable designs, engineers face a number of challenges.

In this episode, Verena Lackner, Global Application Marketing Manager for Health & Lifestyle devices, and Marcel Konstantinov, System Architect for Health & Lifestyle devices, explain how smart things conquer the market and how microelectronics turn devices into voice-operated assistants, digital wallets and health tracker.

Hi Verena, hi Marcel, great to have you as guests today.

Lackner:

The pleasure is ours. Thanks for inviting us.

Moderator:

I am an enthusiastic smartwatch user, so I am always happy when I use my smartwatch while jogging or shopping. And it seems as if I am not the only one who extensively uses smart devices. In 2030, it is predicted that around 50 billion devices will be connected to the IoT, most of which will be owned by private users. What do you think: Why are consumers so crazy about smart things? What are the benefits?

Lackner:

First of all, let’s clarify what we mean when we talk about smart things, wearables, devices, and so on. At Infineon, we use the term smart things to describe all smart consumer devices that help to make life consistently easier and more convenient.

These can be smart speakers, mobile devices, home entertainment devices but also wearables. And wearables, in turn, are electronic devices you wear on your body. There is a wide range of devices that fall under this category: smartwatches, fitness trackers, smart glasses, true wireless earbuds or skin patches. A big trend in wearables is measuring fitness and health parameters to make people's lives safer and healthier.  In the future, with the right technology, we will be able to detect for example high blood pressure at an early stage and prevent and better monitor cardiovascular diseases. Beside the consumer grad products also medical wrist-worn devices will play an active role going forward.

So, you are right, Thomas, people really love smart things and are particularly fascinated by the existing but also upcoming new use-cases and the possibilities, especially provided by wearables!

Konstantinov:

To add towards Verena’s comment about use-cases we cluster key use cases of wearables in three main categories:

  1. Health and fitness monitoring --> Here we see for example heart-rate monitoring, step counting, calorie counting and more health related use cases such as fall detection and ECG to detect atrial fibrillation
  2. Stay connected --> Consumers want to stay up-to-date on notifications and events happening, but also be able to operate the wearable device autonomously from the smartphone e.g. for audio streaming to earbuds
  3. Make life more convenient --> Visualization of maps, news etc. directly on the wrist, access to the ubiquitous smart assistants such as Alexa or Siri and contactless payment, access control and ticketing for example to easily pay in the shop without taking out a wallet or phone to pay

Moderator:

It sounds like the strong growth and demand for wearables will continue?

Lackner:

Definitely. The global market for smartwatches, sport watches and wristbands is expected to grow from 190Mn in 2020 to 279 Mn in 2025. When we look at wristbands for elderly people 24M unit shipments will be sold in 2026 and Child tracking devices will also experience strong growth by reaching 35M unit shipments by 2026.

As we see the fuse between health and lifestyle devices the market for medical wearables is also very important for us. It is expected to grow from USD 7.4 bn in 2020 to USD 19.5 bn in 2025.

In addition to that the market was also influenced by Covid. So personal healthcare has become much more important as before. Key areas of growth are prediction or prevention, health monitoring, contact tracing and social distance enforcement.

So a lot of potential ahead of us.

Moderator:

This is indeed a tremendous growth. Okay, now we've seen what fuels the demand side. But what are the trend topics that influence the supply side? What are key market trends and drivers?

Konstantinov:

There are several trends that shape the health and lifestyle markets and influence future use cases and technical requirements for wearables:

  1. Sensor accuracy due to increased require to improve health and fitness monitoring and boost value of consumers
  2. Power consumption and management are key to boost battery lifetime and increase charging convenience
  3. Smartphone autonomy means, that wearables are moving from companion devices to standalone consumer devices
  4. Data security and privacy gaining importance as health-related data requires protection
  5. Bluetooth audio streaming to wireless earbuds while exercising sports and increase in autonomy from smartphone
  6. Fuse between health and consumer, meaning advanced health monitoring for predictive and prevention. And also new is the contact tracing & social distance enforcement

Moderator:

What does this mean for wearables manufacturers? What challenges do they face?

Konstantinov:

Our customers want to bring innovative value adding functionality into wearable devices while providing long battery lifetime and fancy designs, as wearables are 24/7 worn by consumers.

This results in 4 main challenges:
Innovating and bringing new features in wearables for example through new sensor technology or algorithms is crucial for OEMs.
Power consumption of semiconductor devices is key as lower power consumption enables a) longer battery lifetime and b) the manufacturer to reduce battery size which safes costs and allows smaller designs.
Small semiconductor with e.g. small packages and high-level of integration are needed for sleek designs.
Consumer products have short lifecycles. Having easy to integrate solution a) from a semicon package perspective but especially from a service enablement perspective for example for the use case of payment is really important.

Moderator:

That sounds really challenging. How can we as Infineon support here?

Lackner:

Infineon acts as one-stop shop and addresses all major functional blocks with a broad product portfolio, that makes the IoT work, spanning sensors, microcontrollers, power semiconductors, connectivity technologies, security solutions as well as software and tools.

So we help our customers to overcome design challenges with our:

  • Best in class connectivity & processing solutions
  • State-of-the-art sensor technology with leading accuracy
  • Lowest power memory solutions with a small footprint
  • Security solutions for payment and beyond, as well as device protection for a great user experience
  • Extend battery life through leading technologies

Moderator:

Wow, seems as we have a lot of solutions that we can offer. But I think, others do have this as well. So, how do manufacturers benefit especially from Infineon’s portfolio?

Konstantinov:

If we look at the key challenges we really focus on solving these with our product offering. Infineon develops new sensor technology for example our XENSIVTM 60GHz radar technology that can enable completely new use cases in wearables. We are for example working on micro gesture recognition and advanced health monitoring such as blood pressure with our radar ICs.

We meet integration and space requirements of our customers through highly integrated MCU + connectivity offerings such as the PSoCTM 63 incl. BLE. This is for example used in the Oura ring a smart ring for health monitoring with a battery life of 1 week.

Low-power consumption is key of our value proposition across the portfolio. Taking out examples from the area of connectivity Infineon offers lowest power GPS LNAs for longest battery lifetime while doing location tracking. With our AIROCTM BT and BT/WiFi combo ICs we enable wearables to be connected via different connectivity technologies at leading power consumption.

For our MCU and connectivity products we do not only offer the IC but a full development environment with ModusToolboxTM. Here developers can easily integrate our code examples and drivers into their development tools and have a base to start from when working on new products.

When we think about easy to integrate products I also want to highlight our SECORATM Connect  solution for NFC payment, ticketing and access control. Here we do not only offer the IC for payment but also a full service enablement including pre certification for EMVCo and partners to quickly deploy a payment solution in the ecosystem.

I am confident to state, that Infineon really makes the IOT easy with our solutions.

Lackner:

Summarized: With our extensive portfolio we want to offer our customers maximum service so that they don't have to start from scratch, but can directly implement our "all-inclusive systems" into their IoT devices.

In terms of ease of use customers will have for example a simplified development with the ModusToolbox™ design environment. Moreover we are partnering up with various companies along the value chain to drive innovation to enable customers to get their products to market faster plus offering added value to their customers.

With our in-depth system expertise and our leading technologies, we are the perfect partner for our customers. Also going forward, we will ensure with new technologies we further shape the market because at Infineon, we believe that it is not only about tracking data. It is more about the impact of improving our lives to live a better and healthier life. So we support our customers to develop highly efficient, safe and innovative new solutions by addressing innovative use cases of the future that connect the real world with the digital world and make the IoT work.

Moderator:

That sounds like a wonderful closing for today’s episode, Verena. Thank you very much, Verena and Marcel, for your exciting insights. I'm looking forward to all the exciting new features and possibilities that future wearables will bring.

Dear listeners, for more information, please visit infineon.io.

We will publish the next episode soon. Until then take care and bye bye.