Wearables Drive Low Power Demands

320 Wearablese Lead Image for Web

MCUs & Analog ICs Meet Needs

Wearable devices put extreme demands on the embedded electronics that make them work. Devices spanning across the consumer, fitness and medical markets all need a mix of low-power, low-cost and high-speed processing.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Designers of new wearable, connected devices are struggling to extend battery life for next-generation products, while at the same time increasing functionality and performance in smaller form factors. These devices include a variety of products such as smartwatches, physical activity monitors, heart rate monitors, smart headphones and more. The microcontrollers embedded in these devices must blend extreme low power with high integration. Meanwhile, analog and power solutions for wearables must likewise be highly integrated while serving up low quiescent currents.

Modern wearable electronic devices all share some common requirements. They have an extremely low budget for power consumption,. They tend not to be suited for replaceable batteries and therefore must be rechargeable. They also usually require some kind of wireless connectivity. To meet those needs chip vendors—primarily from the microcontroller and analog markets—keep advancing solutions that consume extremely low levels of power and manage that power. This technology vendors are tasked to keep up with a wearable device market that IDC forecasts will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.4% in 2020.

MCU and BLE Combo

Following all those trends at once is Cypress Semiconductor’s PSoC 6 BLE. In September the company made its public release of the PSoC 6 BLE Pioneer Kit and PSoC Creator Integrated Design Environment (IDE) software version 4.2 that enable designers to begin developing with the PSoC 6. The PSoC 6 BLE is has built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless connectivity and integrated hardware-based security.

Photo 1 The PSoC BLE Pioneer Kit features a PSoC 63 MCU with BLE connectivity. The kit enables development of modern touch and gesture-based interfaces that are robust and reliable with a linear slider, touch buttons and proximity sensors based using Cypress’ CapSense capacitive-sensing technology.

Photo 1
The PSoC BLE Pioneer Kit features a PSoC 63 MCU with BLE connectivity. The kit enables development of modern touch and gesture-based interfaces that are robust and reliable with a linear slider, touch buttons and proximity sensors based using Cypress’ CapSense capacitive-sensing technology.

According to Cypress, the company had more than 2,500 embedded engineer customers registering for the PSoC 6 BLE early adopter program in just a few months. Early adopters are using the flexible dual-core architecture of PSoC 6, using the ARM Cortex-M4 core as a host processor and the Cortex-M0+ core to manage peripheral functions such as capacitive sensing, BLE connectivity and sensor aggregation. Early adopter applications include wearables, personal medical devices, wireless speakers and more. Designers are also using the built-in security features in PSoC 6 to help guard against unwanted access to data.  …

Read the full article in the December 329 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Designing High Performance GUIs

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UIs for the Multicore Era

For embedded developers, it’s critical to understand the types of performance problems a typical end-user might encounter and the performance metrics relevant to user
interface (UI) design. Phil examines these and other important UI design challenges.

By Phil Brumby
Mentor, Embedded Systems Division

The widespread proliferation of portable media devices has changed the way we interact with each other on a daily basis. In fact, there is now a generation of users who grew up with some type of touchscreen device. These users no longer see the UI as new or revolutionary, but rather as a standard piece of mobile device functionality. This phenomenon has created a new set of expectations. It means any device with an LCD must offer a fluid and intuitive user experience. It’s also expected that the touchscreen has to be “smartphone-like” whenever the device is powered on. Embedded system developers are now under pressure across multiple markets and device types to replicate the smartphone UI interactive experience.

The importance of getting the UI right is absolutely critical to the success of the device. Underpinning documented UI design methodologies is a need for the device to operate in a way that it will not impinge or be detrimental to the user experience. For developers, it’s necessary to understand the types of performance problems a typical end-user might encounter, and through an understanding of performance metrics employ various analyses to highlight the bottlenecks and performance degradation issues.

A key advantage to system start-up is analyzing selected input events.

A key advantage to system start-up is
analyzing selected input events.

TYPICAL PERFORMANCE ISSUES

To understand how to best analyze performance, it’s important to look at typical performance issues from the end-user’s perspective. In identifying these issues, developers can begin to identify the first data points or metrics needed for feedback on system performance.

Responsiveness: Responsiveness can be thought of as the time it takes for the user to receive feedback from the UI as a result of an input action made. Typically, this consists of a touchscreen input, but also includes hard key presses. Responsiveness is important as the user must feel the device performs within a certain timeframe to avoid the feeling a UI is “laggy” or slow to respond. Delays in updating the UI in response to input can result in frustration and mistakes made by the user.

Animation smoothness: Animation smoothness relates to the visible motion or change in appearance of elements displayed within the UI. As an element transitions from one point in 3D space to another, does it do so in a smooth manner that is pleasing to the eye? Animation smoothness is important because if the user perceives jagged or staggered motion in a transition, it will degrade the overall interactive experience.   …

Read the full article in the December 329 issue of Circuit Cellar

Don’t miss out on upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar. Subscribe today!
Note: We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.