Designing Wearables: A Complex Proposition

Designing Wearables: A Complex Proposition

Complexities of Designing WearablesThe growing market of wearable technologies is attracting a lot of interest in the consumer electronics and digital health arenas. Between tech-savvy consumers who want to more accurately monitor their health and rising healthcare costs, the shift to digital health and wearables is a natural outcome.

In addition to the fierce competition in the market and potential regulatory hurdles, it’s important to keep in mind the technical challenges that accompany the development of wearable technologies. Expertise and creativity could be the difference between a successful product and one collecting dust on a shelf.


  1. Addressing the physical challenges. This may sound simple, but everything from comfort for the user to actual functionality must be considered to ensure success, and many aspects can be tricky, including:

    - Ergonomics
    - Biocompatibility
    - Wireless technology integration – GSM, GPS, Bluetooth
    - Protecting electronics from everyday use, waterproofing
    - Electrical and optical sensors that interact with the body
    - Manufacturability
    - Battery life and management

  2. Making the data meaningful. A wearable may be able to collect reams of data from sensors, for example an accelerometer. But how is that data turned into something useful? The raw sensor data needs to be filtered from other noise sources, which can be significant in body worn devices, and turned into actionable information for the wearer in order to be useful – for example number of steps taken per day. Having a clear understanding of the user’s needs, a plan to make the data meaningful, and a solid business case is essential to developing a wearable that people can use to improve their lives.
  3. Keeping up with an ever-changing technical ecosystem. Technologies are getting smaller and more sophisticated and the wearable market is becoming more mature. This has led to new data flows. Perhaps the information used to flow from the sensor to a mobile device to a server in a custom configuration, but today a third-party developer tool like Apple’s HealthKit may need to be integrated. There are also new possibilities as technologies are even further miniaturized, run on lower power and are available at a lower cost. All of these new ways to use new technologies can be difficult to navigate efficiently and effectively.

Wearables pose a number of challenges. Some may not be hard to solve but are very important to the success of a wearable. Others are very technically challenging and, if approached incorrectly, can lead to wasted time and effort. An interdisciplinary, experienced product development team can mitigate these challenges and may be poised to solve problems you didn’t even know you would face.


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