Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 07, 2014

Freescale Semiconductor Wearables Reference Platform (WaRP) Seeks to Drive Wearable Technology Design Innovation

Freescale Semiconductor is a company clearly committed to the wearable technology space. This is not only true in terms of the products the company has made available for the wearable tech industry but as well as the fact that Freescale has been both a sponsor of our Wearable Tech Conference as well as a conference speaker focused on issues of advanced hardware for the wearable technology industry. Now the company has pushed its championing of wearable tech even further. How so?

By a taking a very interesting step in developing and offering a reference application development platform and environment for wearable tech designers to build, prototype, evaluate and test their designs and applications. Dubbed the Freescale Wearable Reference Platform - also referred to as WaRP for those looking for a more memorable and colorful moniker - it is an open-source and scalable reference platform that is specifically designed to provide OEMs with the building blocks necessary to rapidly develop a family of wearable product designs built from a single, common platform.

WaRP is highly flexible and provides a system-level design kit that supports embedded wireless charging, incorporates processors and sensors within a hybrid architecture for scalability and flexibility. The platform allows comes with open-source software. No closed development tools or licensing fees are required when used in conjunction with open source resources. In addition, WaRP will have its own .org community to drive innovation in the market. Of the greatest importance WaRP is not limited to just one form factor or product category - the only limitation is the designer's imagination.

Freescale specifically notes that WaRP has been engineered to unleash design creativity for multiple vertical segments such as sports monitors, smart glasses, activity trackers, smartwatches and healthcare and medical applications. Below is shown the WaRP reference processor that designers will use to build/engineer their hardware products and their applications. It is necessary to understand that the reference platform is not what evolves into the actual wearable tech product. The purpose of the platform is to simulate the actual ICs and circuits/circuit boards that ultimately make up the actual product.

WaRP speeds and simplifies development by addressing many of the tech challenges wearable device designers face: connectivity, usability, battery life and miniaturization. By making it easy to simulate these capabilities Freescale expects developers to instead be able to spend far more time on developing differentiated features.

The platform is built on Freescale's i.MX 6SoloLite ARM Cortex-A9 apps processor as the core processing unit, supports the Android OS, and integrates production-grade silicon, software and hardware. The BOM-optimized hybrid architecture also features Freescale's Xtrinsic MMA9553 turn-key pedometer, FXOS8700 electronic compass and ARM Cortex-M0+ Kinetis KL16 microcontroller. In other words, all the typical core components for wearable tech devices.

WaRP came about through collaboration between Freescale, Kynetics and Revolution Robotics. Kynetics provides the expertise for the platform's software, and Revolution Robotics provides the hardware. The three companies worked together to develop a platform that is scalable and modular for various usage models and use cases in the wearable tech market. The hybrid architecture-based platform easily enables development of products across different verticals and new markets as the market evolves. WaRP allows developers to both scale and customize their designs from both a hardware and software perspective to develop either individual products or even entire portfolios.

Rajeev Kumar, director of worldwide marketing and business development for Freescale's Microcontrollers business, notes that, "Wearable technology represents one of the ultimate edge node sensors for the Internet of Things, and holds tremendous promise for equipment makers, service providers and consumers alike. This new solution is engineered to dramatically streamline the design and development of exciting new wearables products. It allows designers and OEMs to go from concept to prototype as quickly as the market is changing."

The wearables reference platform kit includes the main board, a daughter card, an LCD display battery and a micro USB cable. Availability is planned for Q2 2014 at www.WaRPboard.org, for $149 (USD) manufacturer's suggested resale price. Finally, WaRP will be supported through a nonprofit, community-based organization that will deliver service and support for the wearables reference platform.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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