The xPatch project, which I discussed in I-Sport: How smart sports equipment powered with smart integrated electronic devices can enhance our sport activities, Part 3 of this blog series, showed a great example of using electronic technology in sports, especially in contact sports where the risk of concussion is possible. And when you think about it, electronic technology has already made it possible for our everyday lives to become sports of sorts (rhyme intended). The use of smart sensors and integrated devices, increases our consciousness about things we do every day.
Wearable electronic devices track and record our activities–walking, climbing stairs, running, and swimming, to name a few–and can cross-reference their important biological parameters like body temperature, heartbeat, calories burned, and number of hours of sleep. Why? To help schedule training and rest days, record your athletic progress, and reward you for achievements.
Future wearable products, some shown in Figures 1 and 2, will rely even more heavily on sophisticated ICs that combine to make magic. Fitness and health trackers, in particular will rely extensively on microcontrollers and sensors. The sensors could include gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers, pressure, humidity and temperature sensors, and even elevation sensors.
Applications will use these sensors for many purposes, ranging from real-time health monitoring during sports activities to suggesting, recording, and tracking optimal training for individual sports enthusiasts.
Where wearable technology fits. (Source: unitypoint.org)
Images from Wearable Tech Torino, an exposition of wearable technologies organized by students, which will be celebrated in Turin, Italy 18-19th November 2016 (Source: wearabletechtorino.com/it)
But sensors need intelligence behind them. This comes from a blend of software, smart power, wireless communication, and MCU flexibility. The development of wearable devices is fast and simple with the wide range of 32-bit MCU development boards and adapted expansion boards. ST, for example, features a large ecosystem of about 30 STM32 Nucleo development boards and a similar number of STM32 Nucleo expansion boards, equipped with various motion and environmental sensors and wireless communication technologies (Bluetooth Low Energy/NFC/Wi-Fi/Sub-GHz RF).
With tools like these, developers can choose any combination of MCU performance, power consumption and features and combine them with state of-the-art components to complete their system. Design proven, they can then quickly turn their prototype into a final product using the same hardware components and software developed during the prototyping phase. ST, for one, has also developed dedicated evaluation tools for wearable applications (see Figure 4).
Block diagram of typical wearable fitness-tracking solution
The ST evaluation tool developed for designers to speed up the design and the implementation of wearable applications (Source: st.com)
With activity-tracking rings, wristbands, watches, bracelets, pendant necklaces, and even jogging pants with built-in trackers, available on the market now or within the next few years, the most sedentary armchair athletes among us have few excuses to not get off our duffs and get tracking to better health.
Would you use the wearable technology to make your daily life a smart sport daily practice? What do you think of this type of approach? Do you have a favorite fitness tracker?