Trend-setting devices

Staying connected

By Antoinette Price

We live in a “real time” world where soft- and hardware Internet technology enables us to access more products and services any time, any place. IEC work, including printed electronics, semiconductors and many other components, greatly helps the development and roll-out of these technologies.

Smart wristbands track activity, sleep and food consumption to help their wearers make healthier choices (Photo: Jawbone)
Smart wristbands track activity, sleep and food consumption to help their wearers make healthier choices (Photo: Jawbone)

Monitoring human activities…

Managing modern life and staying healthy is high on the agenda for many people. With a greater self-awareness, ways to monitor and measure human fitness and wellness levels at work, play and in between are becoming a part of the everyday preventative actions taken to stay fit and healthy. Hundreds of companies showcased their connected devices at the CES (Consumer electronics) show in Las Vegas, and set the stage for some of this year’s mega trends.

  • Smart Sleep devices can help track sleeping habits and patterns.
  • A UV measuring bracelet, created by the designer behind Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston jewellery brands enables keeping the balance between a healthy dose of sun, and avoiding harmful rays. 
  • An innovative connected pill box ensures elderly patients and their caregivers that pills are taken on time. Once filled by the pharmacy or caregiver, sound alerts via SMS, email or voice notifications inform the patient when it’s time to take the pills and the relevant pill compartment lights up.
  • A sensor cap connected to flexible printed technology could be a lifesaver, warning wearers when impacts to the head require medical attention. 

...and others too.

  • But monitoring doesn’t focus on humans alone. A smart dog collar allows pet owners to take extra care of their four-legged friends, monitoring their activity and rest levels and sharing information with the vet when needed.

Positive progress, for any medical device, takes time because in addition to standardization of the device and data sharing protocols, potential privacy concerns need to be addressed. There will also be, especially for medical professionals, the challenge of extracting the useful, comparable information from the sea of data.

Tremendous tiny technology

MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) are indispensable parts of any piece of electronic equipment, from smart technology to wearable devices, cars, industrial applications and more. Approximately as thick as a human hair, these miniature systems (micro sensors and actuators) often outperform their macro-scale counterparts. Examples of how MEMS improve our life include:

  • Processing motion to detect the orientation of any device, where it is heading and its absolute location in three-dimensional space
  • Sharpening images in video projectors and television Improving storage in computers for disk drives and servers and sound in cell phones, musical devices and hearing aids
  • Increasing safety in the automotive industry, as part of airbags
  • Expanding medical uses, such as for releasing drug doses to patients or in blood pressure monitors
  • Sensing danger by detecting gas leaks or saturation levels

IEC work in standardization and conformity assessment is significant for the continued development of this technology.

IEC TC (Technical Committee) 47: Semiconductor devices and SC (Subcommittee) 47F: Micro-electromechanical systems, prepare many International Standards, allowing manufacturers to build more resistant, efficient and reliable sensors and MEMS.

Cordless chameleon

High-performance audio stereo systems never really went away, they just morphed with the times. They moved from classic stereo systems and LP record players, connected to sizeable loud speakers in the 1970s and 80s to the more recent HD (high-definition) TV and mobile options, like car audio or portable music player systems.

The technology is packaged differently, in the form of home theatre systems and sound bars connected to TVs. Recently, digital or Wi-Fi radio and the internet have replaced the old-style stereo systems. Digital or satellite radio in some areas have replaced car cassette players as they also have for portable personal music player systems.

Wireless boom

Early this year at the Las Vegas CES, a significant number of high-performance audio companies were represented, demonstrating new opportunities to expand this sector, thanks to the gradual adoption of wireless connectivity. The wireless audio device sector is a fast-growing market, which reportedly could reach up to USD 13,75 billion between 2013-2018. It covers all areas, including defence and automotive. Popular items include wireless headphones, sound bar and small portable devices.

High-quality through IEC standardization

IEC work makes high-performance audio and its availability possible with Standards that focus on equipment and the required software. IEC TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia standards and equipment, has greatly contributed to audio standardization through the IEC 60268 series on sound system equipment.

Gallery
Smart wristbands track activity, sleep and food consumption to help their wearers make healthier choices (Photo: Jawbone) Smart wristbands track activity, sleep and food consumption to help their wearers make healthier choices (Photo: Jawbone)
Voyce has developed a smart collar for dogs (Photo: Voyce) Voyce has developed a smart collar for dogs (Photo: Voyce)
This sensor cap by Reebok alerts its wearer when an impact reaches a level requiring medical attention (Photo: Reebok) This sensor cap by Reebok alerts its wearer when an impact reaches a level requiring medical attention (Photo: Reebok)