The challenges wearable tech needs to overcome to succeed

TRP: Can the design and physical shape of wearables affect the components that can be used inside? Most smartwatches have been square up until the Moto 360, the first circular one by a 'major' manufacturer to attract attention.

NH: There is an interplay, and that's not necessarily on the processor side but certainly on the graphics side. Most screens today for the smartphone business are rectangular and of a particular size.

I think that with wearables, we're going to see some more exotic shapes, more exocitic aspect ratios, curved flexible displays and types of display technology. Of course, that then has an effect on both the graphics processing and the associated software libraries.

Because now if we're looking at software resources, I'm now not dealing with an oblong shape, I'm dealing with different types of shapes, so my software now has to layout the data on different aspect ratios with different display screen technolgies.

So it does have an effect, but it's more on the graphics side. The processor doesn't care quite so much.

The curvy Moto 360

The Moto 360: curves in all the right places

Speeding up

TRP: Has increased trajectory around wearables impacted ARM's time to market for its Cortex-M series CPUs?

NH: In terms of where we are today, we have a very broad processor portfolio all the way from Cortex-M0 to Cortex-M0+ processors to ones fractions of a grain of sand. They span all the way up to the latest 64-bit tablet processors. We have a good range in-between too.

There are other elements looking forward, such as security and looking at how you secure the data, which is a key aspect to this marketplace. Do I see an increased cadence? I think there's a natural increase cadence, but wearables has a way to go until it gets as frantic as smartphones.

Everyone's bringing out new phones every six to nine months, but I don't expect wearables will change rapidly. We're confident we've got the entire processor range to be able to satisfy that change for a generation or two.

ARM's Cortex M0 CPU for werables

ARM's Cortex M0 CPU for wearables

TRP: Let's switch angle - what potential do wearables hold for the healthcare industry? You said that blood pressure sensors are difficult to implement.

NH: Blood pressure has been a bit elusive. Sometimes in the medical field there are regulated areas for taking things like heart rates and so on - it's currently measured with a big cuff. if you could have a more unobtrusive way of measuring blood pressure, I think consumers as patients would go for it.

There's also an opportunity to better monitor patients using wearables, which means you can get patients out of hospitals and into homes, which has an advantage for the medical industry because it's expensive keeping people in hospitals.

Also, patients that spend time in hospital tend to say that the food's rubbish, they can't sleep and want to go home.

Check out our coverage of Qualcomm's Life at MWC 2014.

TRP: How quickly will wearables take off at the business end generally?

NH: You see it many times where people play around with technology in the consumer environment and then industry picks up on it. With Glass-like technology, for example, you can wander around and do stock takes hands free, that sort of thing.

I think it'll go down that route. When looking at other routes, it goes beyond wearables. Sensors in cars, for example, can affect your insurance depending on how you drive. There are lots of scenarios that will unfold over time.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.