16-04-2015 | | By Paul Whytock
Intelligent fabrics that can change colour, charge a phone and keep you warm in cold weather are not so much the future of fashion but the here and now of sartorial progress. Materials with extremely delicate conductive fibres woven into them are already creating clothing that can harvest and store energy from the wearer's body.
Now although this could lead to some hideous fashion trends where we would see body warming Hawaiian shorts being worn in winter there are some very practical possibilities.
The military for example are interested in what smart fabrics could do for soldiers by way of reducing the amount of batteries and associated electrical leads embedded in the uniforms that infantry have to currently march around in.
And there is no doubt that electronics companies are rubbing their hands together at the thought of the potential profits from wearable technology. Business analysts Statista reckons the wearable tech market will have a global value of around €12billion by 2018 and power management chip company, Dialog Semiconductor, believes it will reach approximately 170 million units by 2019.
It comes as no surprise then that Dialog has unveiled what it claims is the first Bluetooth Smart Wearable-on-Chip; the DA14680 SmartBond chip.
What this device does is combine all the functions needed to create wearable tech products with extremely good battery life and high levels of data security. It features flexible processing power, flash memory, dedicated circuitry for sensor control, analogue and digital peripherals optimised for wearable products and a sophisticated power management unit.
A big design advantage when it comes to designing fashionable technology is the fact the DA14680 eliminates several external chips from the overall product design which means that the finished design can be small. It also helps with competitive pricing by reducing overall system costs.
The DA14680’s ultra-low power 30uA/MHz ARM Cortex-M0 application processor may be programmed to a maximum clock frequency of 96 MHz.
An important element of wearable technology design given past criticisms about easy hackability is adequate system security. This device includes a dedicated hardware crypto engine with elliptic curve cryptology which provides banking-level encryption which Dialog believes offers substantial personal data security.
The chip integrates 8 Mbit flash memory, audio support with PDM and I2S/PCM interfaces, two separate I2C and SPI buses, three white LED drivers, a temperature sensor, multi-channel DMA, and an 8 channel, 10bit ADC. Intelligent power management, including system power rails and a Li-ion/LiPo battery charger and fuel gauge are also on-chip.
For design engineers working with this device there are SmartBond development kits. These include the SmartSnippets software development environment, example application code and a power profiler for real-time, power-optimised coding.