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The role of BLE in wearable IoT designs

Posted: 27 Nov 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS sensors? wearable device? Activity Monitor? Bluetooth Low Energy? BLE?

The high penetration of smart phones in many mature markets, combined with the wide availability of lower cost MEMS sensors, has lead to the growth of new category of electronics known as wearable devices. A wearable device is a highly portable device that is worn or otherwise attached to the body, and is capable of measuring/capturing information via one or more sensors. Figure 1 shows a generic information flow diagram of a wearable device.

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 Wearable device information flow

Figure 1: Wearable device information flow.

Wearable devices can be broadly classified based on the market segment they serve or the body part on which they are intended to be worn. The table shows the common classifications of wearable devices and their typical use cases.

 Wearable devices classification

Table : Wearable devices classification. (Click on image to enlarge)

* BODY: Includes arm, torso & leg

Most wearable devices are equipped with one or more sensor(s), a processor, storage, connectivity link (i.e., radio controller), display, and battery. Figure 2 shows a block diagram for an activity monitor.

 Activity Monitor

Figure 2: Block DiagramActivity Monitor (Wearable Device).

Since these devices are to be worn on the body, there are additional aspects that must be considered which govern the acceptance of these devices:
???Communication mode supported
???Average battery life
???Low cost
???Size and weight of the product

These aspects are discussed in detail in the next few sections.

Communication modes
There are various communication protocols available for use in wearables, including standards like Bluetooth Classic, ZigBee, and WiFi, as well as proprietary interfaces developed by silicon vendors. Standard protocols like Bluetooth classic, ZigBee, and WiFi have not been designed with low power as the primary design consideration. For this reason, many OEMs chose to use a proprietary protocols focused on energy efficiency. The Use of a proprietary protocol imposes many restrictions on the flexibility of these wearable products by restricting their interoperability to only devices using the same proprietary protocol.

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