Wearables lab opens

Paul Boughton

TE Connectivity has opened a laboratory to focus on the connector challenges of wearable technologies across consumer, medical, industrial and defence applications.

TE Wearables Lab in Menlo Park, California, USA, serves as a collaboration centre for TE's team of engineers, scientists and its customers throughout the design process. 

James O’Toole, President, Consumer Solutions segment at TE Connectivity, said: “Providing our customers with a Wearables Lab allows us to enhance our role as a strategic partner. We seek to truly iterate and collaborate – engaging earlier in the process – to support customer innovation with the goal of delivering the best antennas, smart connectivity solutions and sensors.”

According to market researchers IDC, shipments of wearable devices will exceed 19 million units in 2014, more than tripling last year's sales. From there, the global market is expected to swell to 111.9 million units in 2018. This growth is a key indicator of the market potential and importance for continued industry innovation.

In the defence market, wearables are an integral part of connected soldier systems that provide both a tactical advantage and improve troop safety. Connected soldier systems make troops on the ground part of the vast network of equipment that provides better data and situational awareness for decision-makers.

One of the first products to come out of the TE Wearables Lab is a first-of-its-kind, wireless power development kit for wearable devices. For the first time, TE will introduce a solution that addresses the need for miniaturisation as well as low power requirements for wearables. 

Set for broader distribution in early 2015, the kit will include a small 2.5W charger with integrated magnet for attachment to a wearable device, as well as a complete RX coil and electronics for integration. TE engineers miniaturised the electronic system and the coil to make it possible for wearable designers to quickly prototype their products and develop a customised solution to meet their design requirements.

TE’s Wearables Lab team consists of professionals with extensive skill sets and experiences. These individuals range from electrical and mechanical engineers to materials science experts, pioneering the use of conductive materials including embedding electronic systems in textiles.

The TE Wearables Lab is currently being used by a number of start-up and middle stage companies ranging from design to manufacturing and integration companies. TE’s ability to collaborate across the wearables ecosystem is one of its strengths, coupled with breadth of products and technologies. One key customer, Sensoplex, is an expert systems company that designs and supplies high performance sports and wellness wearable products to OEM companies. 

“TE Connectivity is a fantastic partner for us,” said Sensoplex CEO Hamid Farzaneh. “The breadth of their catalogue and ability to develop custom solutions has enabled us to build very exciting products for our customers.”

In addition to working with customers on custom and existing products, the TE Wearables Lab team is also exploring innovations around wireless power and conductivity across textiles, plastics and other materials. 

With TE’s unmatched product portfolio, the company expects to be enabling connectivity across tens of millions of wearable devices globally in the next year.

“Innovation is part of our DNA,” said Brady Forrest, Vice President, Highway1, an accelerator focused on helping early seed stage hardware start-ups take ideas from prototype to scalable product. “When we met TE and heard their vision for connectivity, things clicked. Together we have a real opportunity to enable a hardware revolution and help the next generation of innovators get off the ground.”